By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | January 21, 2015
Many parents have worried about their child not eating enough, me included.
A member was recently concerned about whether or not their child was eating enough to be healthy and it reminded me of several similar instances. When my brother was around four years old, it seemed as if he ‘ate like a bird’ and my mother worried and nagged him at every meal.
“Eat your supper, Terry, you haven’t eaten anything today,” she would plead.
Terry would snap, “I did eat; I ate when you weren’t looking!”
The more our mother nagged, the less Terry would eat and more often than not, she or my brother would end up in tears. Mom took Terry to the doctor to learn if he was underweight or if there was a medical reason he was not eating. The doctor told her that eating was a natural function and to ‘let him be’ and he would eat when he was ready. By the next year Terry was eating everything put before him and was asking for more – nature had finally kicked in.
Later on I remembered the advice given to our mother by the doctor when it seemed my first child was not eating very much. My grandmother began telling me frightening stories about children that did not eat enough so I began to worry: Would she have brain damage? Would her growth be stunted? Would she get sick? (Our runaway imaginations can do more harm than good.) The pediatrician told me to give my daughter bacon, as much as she wanted, saying that bacon was an appetite stimulant. Can you picture anything sillier than me following my three-year-old daughter around trying to stuff bacon into her? It was quite stressful for me at the time but it was a different time and we all know more now than back then.
The fact remains that many parents do worry their young children are not eating enough so I found an informative 4-page article with clear guidelines about caloric needs for kids age one to ten.
Here are other things parents can do to try and get children to eat better:
Provide healthy snacks: Have small amounts of fruits and vegetables available that children can easily graze on between meals. Healthy food for a young child at any time counts as nutrition. Remove the snacks, though, at least an hour before a scheduled family meal and cut back on between-meal snacks as children eat better.
Give a pre-meal reminder: Children’s work is play and interrupting their work to plop them in a chair with no prior notice can be upsetting for kids. To set a positive mealtime mood, tell kids that in ten minutes their meal will be served and it is time to get ready by stopping play and washing their hands. Setting a minute timer can sometimes help them get ready on time without a parent’s second reminder.
Schedule regular mealtimes: Eating at the same time every day can become an event children look forward to. Studies also show that children who eat dinner with their parents were less likely to become involved with drugs, become pregnant as a teen, experience depression and also do better in school and have a higher self-esteem
Make food fun: Cut foods into shapes, create pictures or sculptures from foods, give foods funny names or jazz up foods with healthy dips. The Internet is an endless source of recipes and ideas to get foods inside children’s tummies.
Don’t pressure children: Kids eat better when there is no pressure; use the ‘just try it once’ method and also allow them a few foods that they do not have to eat ever because they really dislike it, don’t like the way it feels in their mouth or makes the mouth tingle. Note: Food allergies show up in children by ‘tingling’ or ‘itching.’
Related article: The Need To Know: Child Into Adulthood
Keep table time positive: Mealtimes are not the time to remind about chores or homework, mealtimes are for asking ‘how was your day,’ ‘what did you learn today,’ or fun things like learning a new word or sharing news. Have children stay at the table until the meal is over, even if they are finished.
Teach for tomorrow: Remember that what kids learn at the table sets a patter for years to come. Children may spill things or drop food but tomorrow is another opportunity to practice and get better. Teaching manners comes a little at a time with patience and caring.
Tech-free mealtime: Attention grabbers like handheld games, cell phones and TVs can distract parents and children from what is truly important, family time. This works better when parents set the example and follow the rule. Parents not answering a ringing phone during the sacred dinner hour shows children how important they are to mom and dad.
Positive feedback: Before bedtime make a point to tell children how nice it was to have them at the meal. Or that their washing hands without reminding them shows how they are maturing. Positive feedback is especially nice for young kids.
Listen to the doctor, not others: Family often want to help and offer advice but nobody knows your child like you and if the doctor says your child is healthy then believe it. If your child does not maintain their weight, though, then it may be time to call the doctor again.
We had our share of broccoli and chocolate cake stuffed under the cushions and green beans fed to the family dog. Thinking of the bigger picture when parents discover these little surprises, though, can supply families with funny stories for a lifetime. Let it go for now… that’s what is important.
Do you have tricks up your sleeve to share? I am always curious what other parents do to get kids to eat.
Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.
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