ENCOURAGE A CHILD TO EAT

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How should you encourage your child to eat.

The efforts put into cooking a rich and nutritious food is so demanding that  no one would applaud a child whose interests in eating is like a monkey’s in butter (Yoruba proverb though). As mothers, we’re busy harnessing and assessing the right recipe,  method, spices, options and available resources to present  tasty, nutritious and appetizing meals. For most moms, the efforts ends not at the serving point but continues to the encouragement stage. Believe it, making your child eat their foods entails certain scope than persuasion. Here are some tips gathered from mothers’ experiences and nutritional facts to encourage your little ones to eat.

⌘  It begins with you.

 

It’s true your tastes and preferences are being rigorously influenced by the ever active pregnancy hormones which could make a favorite dish nauseating and a ‘never tried meal’ taste nice. However, researches has confirmed that the choices of foods made by mothers during the gestation and breastfeeding periods go a long way in influencing the child’s likes and dislikes after delivery and weaning. This is because evidence proves that there’s traces of every tastes in the nutrient transported through the amniotic fluid. Likewise, during breastfeeding, baby is let in to the world of flavors and tastes which finds its way to the mother’s milk.

 

There’s little or nothing to be done when your system rejects certain foods and favors others. But there sure is a little you can do to encourage your body to enjoy the foods in a ‘new order’. So if you can’t stand the sweetness of  orange, try other citrus fruits like tangerine, grapefruit, lemon or lime. It’s not only the similarity of their nutritional benefits that you enjoy, but a child is likely to like the taste of orange for it has a relational taste with lemon whose taste he had been used to during the gestation period.

⌘  Explore and Exploit their interests.

 

My son is in so much a hurry to grow big like his dad, so I tell him to eat up his tomatoes to help him grow faster. You should see the fulfilment on his face whenever he finishes his jollof rice and there’s no leftover tomato slice.

Picky eaters would likely be bored by a mother’s lectures on food nutrition and health. Hence, mothers may need to substitute the lectures with catchy expressions that hits the sensitive part of their interests and wishes. You could say:

“David! I like Ben 10 you know? He’s so strong and smart! I think he eats nuts and milk “

⌘  Save the comments

 

“Jamal won’t eat chicken soup, just serve him the rice plain “
Comments like this would offer no help to the boy who doesn’t even know why he dislikes the taste of chicken. Many a child would rather confirm their mother’s claim than give the inviting meal a trial.
If you’re at a friend’s place for dinner, rather than reel out the list of your child’s ‘specials’, simply let her be served whatever is meant to and let her reaction be the decision. Don’t be surprised if he eats the food. The change in the Cook, flavors and location could do the magic!

⌘  Let someone be the cook

 

You know that feeling in the early weeks of pregnancy when you would rather visit a ‘buka’ than eat your own home cooked meals? It’s a real feeling which is the body’s way of demanding for something other than the usual. Children experiences this too.

You’re up and doing preparing sandwiches and toasts every morning, lunch is always a delicacy prepared by you, you’re trying your hands on every recipe just to make healthier snacks and dinner is a special one you would rather drag your tired hands on than skip. The truth is, not every child would value this stressful efforts. Everyone needs a breakaway from the usual sometimes! Why not eat at the restaurants even if its once a while? If your partner can, let them do the cooking. Sometimes, an older child can assist in making meals as you give yourself some rest. We panic ourselves to a fault labelling every snacks as junks forgetting that a child’s love for sweets and cookies supersedes the tastes and flavors. It may be the wrapper, name or brand logo that keeps interesting our little ones. So? Learn to skip making every cakes and yoghurt.

⌘  Be moderate

 

Children reacts to situations in different attitudes. A dining set packed with kiwi and banana, a chocolatey drink, biscuit, a slice of bread and egg sauce could make child A eat like a glutton yet be upsetting to child B.

Parents and caregivers should focus on the quality of feeds rather than quantity. A heavy meal doesn’t necessarily mean optimal nutrition. The onus is in balancing between nutrition and quantity.

⌘  Schedule rather than make foods a constant

 

As important as it is to ensure a child feeds well and leftovers are not wasted, a child shouldn’t be pressured to clearing his plates or eating like his mates. Children’s energy requirements differs so does their appetite. Children can be productively encouraged to eat by setting a eating schedule which is a timely breakdown of meals throughout the day. Constant availability of foods and small chops lowers the child’s appetite. Sometimes, children should be made to hunger for foods so as to appreciate it when served. As suggested by Julie Burns; nutritionist and mother of triplets, children need to eat every three to four hours: three meals, two snacks, and lots of fluids.

⌘  Picnic

 

We were living in a city where almost a third of the population ate their lunch beside the roadside, at the forest, on the riverbank, parks and every available natural resorts they could find. The meals are mostly home cooked, packed and transported from home to the bare open. At first, it wasn’t fun to me, then it became disturbing and finally I didn’t only adapt to the scenario but imbibed it as a culture. 

I discovered that foods eaten in fresh air and more natural atmosphere tastes better. All thanks to the relaxation effect enjoyed under the cool breeze, bright sun and a dinning without walls and borders. Children whose energy levels had dropped from the running and hopping around also eat more than they would have in the house. Away from the four walls of the dinning, parents can sometimes spike up their child’s appetite by eating in a more play-friendly, natural and refreshing location.

⌘  Let the food do the invitation

 

Children would naturally welcome a well garnished salad albeit its blandness. A mother once complained how her daughter would eat no other biscuit but a particular brand cut out in the shapes of animals. It turns out the biscuit is less sweetened but we watched in utmost amusement as the girl playfully fights an animal with the other, eats the weaker one (that which breaks as they collide).
Children just like adults appreciates aesthetic, packaging, designing and decoration. Solids like amala, eba, fufu and the likes can be made more inviting simply by molding into a triangular shape or served into a fish-shape plate to give it that ‘fishy look’ or simply served in colorful plates.