I have a keen interest in infant and child nutrition. I think it’s because the growth and development of a child is so highly dependent upon the foods of which they eat. I have spent the last 6 months of my uni degree researching and writing about childrens eating behaviour, a totally fascinating area of nutrition. Throughout the four years of my degree, and working under a leading paediatric dietitian, I have learned some invaluable lessons of which I will share with you here today. They have been useful for my little niece Pearl, pictured below. She is a delight, and a wonderful eater.
The goal is to help children feel comfortable and relaxed around food, experiment with new textures and flavours and eat a wide range of nutritious food for optimal health.
It’s up to the parent to determine when and what the child will eats, but leave it to the child to determine how much they will eat.
Letting the child get messy is not the end of the world. There are 27 skills a child needs to learn just to be able to put food in their mouths. Letting them play with the food is teaching them life lessons and will in time assist the child in developing into a good eater. The ultimate goal is to create an environment where a child can feel comfortable and happy with food and build a good relationship with food and meal times. This will help in the long term. Have you ever seen a child with a handful of pumpkinspeared from head to toe not happy? No. Let them play, be happy and if you can handle the mess in the short term, it will pay off for you and bub in the long term.
Children pick up very easily on parental stress. Try not to rush your child when feeding them, and try not to get angry at them if they drop food or make a mess unintentionally. Life gets hectic and there are always 100 things to do as a parent, but your child eating in a alm environment is very important for their growth and development.
It takesa child being exposed to a new food up to 10 times before a child may eat it. If your child turns their nose at weet bix, try again in a few days…try up to 10 times in fact. This will ensure that they begin to eat a wide variety of foods. Variety is necessary in order to meet their nutritional requirements for growth and development and make them as healthy and happy as can be.
Make sure your child is getting enough iron. A childs iron stores that you passed onto them in the womb, are fully depleted by the time a child is 6 months of age. So this age is very important for building those iron stores back up. Meats, lentils, mushrooms are just a few of the foods you can add to their diet to boost their iron.
Does your child refuse to try new foods? Try the ‘tasting plate’. This is a small plate of food that your child normally refuses to eat, placed on the table near your child. Serve them their meal and the tasting plate. Explain that they do not have to eat the food on the tasting plate, but they do have to have the plate sitting there with them for the entirity of the meal. This is to get them used to the food. As this becomes tolerable to your child, encourage them to pick the food up and talk about the food with you, ensuring them that they don’t have to eat the food if they don’t want to. Get them to describe the texture, the smell, the colour, size of the food. This process may take several weeks, but don’t give up. Eventually you will be able to get your child to want to take a bite because they will hopefully have become used to the food and are now enquisative as to what the food may taste like.
When I was a child my parents had a rule. I always had to at least try a new food, and if I didn’t like it I was allowed to spit it into a tissue. This made me comfortable in trying new foods, and to this day I eat all sorts of weird and wonderful things.
And finally, from an early age, get your child cooking and growing food. I recently purchased this devine wooden cooking set from Lime Tree Kids for Miss Pearl’s second Birthday. She loves cooking with her Nanna (my mother) and I think she will absolutely love this.
Lime Tree Kids have been kind enough to offer on lucky The Nutrition Guru and The Chef reader one of these kitchen mixer sets worth $49.95. All you have to do is leave a comment below as to why you would like to win this delightful prize. To be in the running, you will also have to head on over and LIKE our Facebook page. And why not head on over to the Lime Tree Kids page while you are there.
The winner will be drawn on Sunday 4th November, 2012 at 11.00pm EST. Open to Australian residents only.
Stay happy and healthy,
The Nutrition Guru
The information presented in the post is general information only and should not take the place of expert medical opinion. For problems with child feeding, please consult a professional who can give you individualised medical advice.