Unfortunately, children`s marvellous regulatory mechanism does not recognise the importance of what adults consider as healthy food such as cauliflower or leafy greens. Instead, they have a finely honed `yuck` response to a single bite of anything new. Human beings as such are omnivores, programmed to eating many different things. But they are also programmed to be very suspicious of anything new. This is particularly true of the human offspring.
So, what do you do? Well, offering a new food upto a dozen times usually wears down a child`s resistance. But there is no guarantee. Usually, breast-fed babies are more open-minded to new food than formula-fed babies, because the flavour of breast feed keeps changing depending on what the mother consumes in her diet. Mother`s milk acts as a flavour bridge to the foods eaten in that culture.
The most important reason why kids should be helped to enjoy new tastes is that a varied diet of foods eaten for pleasure is most likely to be a healthy diet.
Children naturally love sweet and salty tasting food. So, it`s not difficult for them to get hooked on to fast food and junk food. That`s the reason why it`s never too early to set good eating habits.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help prevent many cancers. It also provides sufficient fibre to the body. Both adults and children should eat at least five servings of fruits or vegetables a day. This is not a very difficult task, since a serving is only half a cup of cooked food or a whole fruit.
Fruit juice, which many kids swig all day, is a poor substitute for whole fruit, water or milk. It`s not very different in calories from soda.
What if your child refuses vegetables in any form for weeks? Will her nutrition suffer? Vegetables are very valuable for vitamins, minerals and roughage. But a variety of fruits also supply these. Milk, meat, egg and high quality grains supply other nutrients that fruits do not provide. So, if your child dislikes vegetables but likes fruits, don`t panic and don`t fuss. Chances are her appetite will swing around to vegetables again if you don`t make an issue of it.
Never hold back one food until another is eaten. This will give your child the impression that plain foods are not as good as the sweet ones. If one day she catches sight of the dessert first and asks for it, let her have it right away, willingly.
Set a good example. If you are going to have a lot of sodas, ice creams or candy or chips all the time, of course your kid is going to ask for them. And then it will be very difficult for you to say `no` to her.
Some children are born with a wolf`s appetite and seem to be cut out by nature to be plump. Others are more moderate eaters and are apparently intended to stay on the slender side. But every child is born with enough appetite to keep her healthy, and gain weight at the proper rate for her. It`s important for parents to understand this.
Parents` anxiety and urging usually makes it worse for the child and prevents the appetite from improving.
Once a feeding problem is established, it takes time, patience and understanding to undo it. The aim is not to make the child eat but to let her natural appetite come to the surface so that she wants to eat. Don`t talk about her eating, either with threats or encouragement.
A child with feeding problems is no more susceptible to diseases than a child without it. It is extremely rare to see serious malnutrition or vitamin deficiency or infectious disease result from a feeding problem.
If your child eats poorly, serve her small portions. Seeing a heapful of food in her plate will remind her of how much she is going to refuse. This will depress her appetite.
A child of two years or more should be eating by herself. But getting her to do this may take several weeks. You must never give her the impression that you are trying to take away a privilege. Instead, give her the impression that you want her to eat by herself because she wants to.
Do not bribe or threaten the child to eat, such as a story for every mouthful or an outing for every meal eaten well. These persuasions may seem to be doing the trick for the moment, but in the long run they will take away her appetite even more.