Dealing with Picky Eaters
With the increased popularity of junk food, it is undeniable that children nowadays are increasingly drawn away from healthy and nutritious diet a situation which can have deleterious effects on their health in future.
Keeping in mind the prospective health of kids, it is extremely important for them to develop a healthy relationship with food at young age as nutritive diet serves to mitigate various short- and long-term health problems that may appear later on in their life. Not only does junk food ruin the taste bud of children, but also lead to childhood obesity. These obese children typically grow into overweight and obese adults, who are susceptible to chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, chronic kidney and cardiovascular diseases.
Being a picky eater, that is, being too selective on food, has detrimental effects as that could result in inadequate supply of nutrition to body. This issue has become a major concern among parents these days as children, are more into junk/convenience food rather than healthy, nutritious ones.
First of all, it is of utmost importance to understand the reason behind children preference of junk food over homemade wholesome food. One of the major reasons is increased hype of convenience food. As food companies are targeting children through computer games, mobile phones and social media, children are constantly surrounded by advertisement urging them to consume sweets and snacks with high levels of fat, sugar and salt. Children are continuously exposed to such advertisements of HFSS (high fat, salt and sugar foods) advertisements are adversely influenced in their food preferences and consumption patterns. The new taste, attractive packaging, hidden gifts like toys of their superheroes, or the picture of their role models on food labels attract children toward junk food.
Whether they’re toddlers or teens, children develop a natural preference for foods they enjoy the most. It is very crucial for parents to actively participate in encouraging nutritional food in kids’ diet. They need to focus on overall diet rather than specific food as kids should be eating more whole, minimally processed food—food that is as close to its natural form as possible—and less packaged and processed food. Likewise, being a role model yourself can generate in them a strong impulse to imitate you. So don’t ask your child to eat vegetables while you gorge on finger chips. Apart from these, following approaches can be adopted, thereby making nutritious choices appealing:
- Cook more meals at home.
- Get kids involved in shopping for groceries and preparing meals. You can teach them about different foods, and how to read food labels.
- Disguise the taste of healthier foods. For instance, add vegetables to chicken soup.
- Make healthy snacks available. Keep plenty of fruits, vegetables, and healthy beverages (water, milk, pure fruit juice) on hand so kids avoid unhealthy snacks like soda, chips, and cookies.
- Limit portion sizes. Don’t insist your child clean the plate, and never use food as reward or bribe.
Nutrition for kids is based on the same principle as nutrition for adults. Children, however, need different amounts of specific nutrients at different ages. It is advisable to consume these nutrient-dense food on daily basis for sound health of a growing children;
- Protein: Choose seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans, soy products and unsalted nuts and seeds.
- Fruits: Encourage your child to eat a variety of fresh fruits rather than fruit juice.
- Vegetables: Serve a variety of fresh, canned, frozen or dried vegetables. Aim to provide a variety of vegetables, including dark green, red and orange, beans and peas, starchy and others, each week. When selecting canned or frozen vegetables, look for options that have lower amount of sodium.
- Grains: Choose whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa, or brown or wild rice. Limit food items made from refined grains such as white bread, pasta and rice.
- Dairy: Encourage your child to eat and drink fat-free or low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese or fortified soy beverages.
- Limit the food which are rich in trans-fat and saturated fat.
Dilemma prompted by picky eaters
It’s a real struggle for parents to persuade their children to take nutritious food instead of junk food. Dr. Shanta, Nutritionist, at Grande International Hospital, in Kathmandu shares here with us her thoughts on children’s picky eating behavior, reasons underlying this behavior, and strategies to deal with it.