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Let us make Nutritious Food A Pleasant Experience For Children


Laxmi, the mother of five-year-old Balu, complains about her son fussing over food and not eating properly. Vibha is upset about her daughter, who is six-years-old and throws up food whenever she drinks milk in the morning. Montu’s parents feel that their children eat potato chips and chocolates, instead of eating normal food.


Their problem may not be of only these parents. You may also be facing similar kinds of problems with your children. Let us try to understand these problems and help our children to overcome them, and enjoy eating nutritious food. Refusal to eat may often be an attention seeking behaviour. Some children take a lot of time to eat, fuss about food, demand for substitutes, or ask for less quantity of food. This is because these have been proved to be helpful in keeping one, or both parents attending to them. The type of attention they attract may be pleasant or unpleasant but by doing this they ensure that they are not being ignored.


Forced feeding by anxious parents results in food being unpleasantly associated with anger, fear, unreasonable demands and tension. It is not surprising that many children throw up milk in the morning when it is given to them forcibly. You have to try out alternatives to match your child’s taste. Insistence upon certain type and amount of food may create resistance to eating in general.


It is common practice among many parents to use food as a reward or punishment for good or bad behavior. Parents often reward children with chocolates, candies and cookies when they behave as instructed, though these are not considered as nutritious food. Having nurtured such expectations and habits, parents should not be surprised if their children prefer sweets and chocolates to other food items. Similarly, depriving a child of food as a punishment can result in the child overvaluing food as a symbol of acceptance by the parents.


Some children have the tendency to overeat and some others have the problem of erratic eating. However, all obesity may not be linked to overeating. In many cases, it is genetic and related to endocrine imbalance. Wherever the problem of overeating and erratic eating is not linked to physiological disorders, parents have to fully counsel the child. In most such cases, the problem disappears on its own with some help from he parents as the child grows up.


Some parents give a lot of importance to a child’s table manners. Instead allowing the child to enjoy his or her food, they nag all the time for being messy, slow, and clumsy in using a spoon and fork. Such an atmosphere is hardly conducive for enjoying food. The more pleasant and relaxed the eating experience is the faster will the child acquire socially acceptable habits in terms of what they eat and how he/she eats.


Children love to participate in the activities by their parents at home.If we try to involve them in preparing food items or any activity related to it, it can help to develop a sense of achievement and enthusiasm to eat those items. Also, most of these habits are acquired through observing others, including the eating habits and behaviors of adults at home. Merely exhorting that nutritious food is necessary for the growing child but not for grow up adults will not be convincing enough to children.


For children, it is a delightful experience to eat with their parents. This is a time when parents can share their own experiences with their children, guide them in their behavior and shape their food habits. How many of us make it a point to have at least one meal together with our children? Eating is not just to satisfy our physiological needs, it also plays a very important role in establishing emotional bonds. It is this emotional relationship that can influence the children’s eating behavior, much more than mere rational advice on eating a balanced diet.


Dr. Amita Govinda

Call Us: 9870339731  /   santamariaile@gmail.com   /  4, Green Avenue Lane Vasant Kunj, New Delhi-110070