12 tactics to “grow” a healthy eater

Free yourself of fussy feeder torment when you get your tot to tuck into nutritious nosh with these top tips.

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Make family mealtimes with your mini-muncher enjoyable and he’s more likely to eat well. So, don’t argue, nag, frown and prod him constantly to finish his meal or you might just ruin your plan to nurture bubba into a healthy eater! Advises Jaclyn Reutens, dietitian at Aptima Nutrition, “Children are quick to associate food with experiences. An unpleasant mealtime could eliminate a certain food for an extended period of time.”

Conversely, creating a positive eating experience for your tot will boost their chances of picking up good eating habits. That said, frustration-free mealtimes are easier said than done, especially if your mini-muncher’s picky about his food! So, try these tips to minimise fussy feeding:

1) Begin with the right foods When you start weaning your child, begin with foods that are least likely to cause allergies such as rice-based foods, as well as fruits and veggies.

Reutens suggests rice cereal, rice cakes, soft bread, pasteurised plain unsweetened yoghurt and small cubes of cheese like ricotta. Fresh fruit to offer include watermelon, papaya, honeydew, soft pears, peaches, and avocado in small pieces or in a purée. Note that milk should still the mainstay of their diet right up till they are a year old!

When your tot feels good about his eating practices, he’s more likely to repeat what he is doing.

2) Pair new foods with old favourites If bubba’s a fan of macaroni and cheese, include several pieces of broccoli the next time you serve it, Reutens suggests. But when your little one complains of hunger, this is when you serve only new foods, she adds.

3) Start small It can get rather intimidating for your tot when he is greeted with large servings of food items that he has never seen before — and it’ll be a waste if he doesn’t like them. Offer small servings and then gradually increase the portion sizes, Reutens adds.

4) Involve them in prepping their meals To take the stress out of eating, turn food prep into a bonding activity. Reutens notes, “[Children] are more eager to eat what they have prepared.” Involve junior in shopping for ingredients ― at the supermarket, introduce them to the wide variety of veggies and products on sale.

5) Give foods fun nicknames Try cheeky chicken patties, power-packed peas or smartie spinach, Reutens says. Plating food attractively will also invite your offspring to interact with his food.

 

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6) Offer praise and encouragement
When your tot feels good about his eating practices, he’s more likely to repeat what he is doing. Reutens’ advice is to “Give them a small piece of a new food [item] and tell them they can eat it very quickly. Praise them when they do, then give them their favourite foods.”

7) Don’t pressure them Intrigue your kids by continuing to introduce them to a variety of foods to get them to try new ones. Don’t force feed or pressure them as this might just compel them to find reasons not to sample the new foods. Reutens cautions, “Don’t force feed children. They may throw up, cry or retch, which makes them fear eating it again.”

8) Persistence pays off Offer new foods at least 10 to 15 times. Don’t kick up a fuss when they refuse ― instead, stay calm and wait a day before offering it again. Reutens cautions, “You don’t want them to associate the food with your displeasure.”

Don’t force feed or pressure them as this might just compel them to find reasons not to sample the new foods.

9) Remember to have whole grains Once you have introduced rice into your darling’s diet make sure to choose whole grains over the refined varieties and offer these at least once a day. Try brown rice, whole-grain cereals, multigrain breads or wholemeal pancakes (in small bite-sized portions).

10) Homecooked food is best This is because you’ll know exactly what your little one is eating. Reutens explains, “You can control the amount of oil and other fats, salt and sugar as compared to when you eat out. You can also ensure they get enough vegetables and good quality proteins.”

11) Be a good role model Your tot is constantly watching you and imitating the things you do. Reutens says, “If you refuse to eat certain foods, they will follow suit.”

12) Limit the sweet stuff Up until he is about 1 year old, milk will still be his main source of nutrition. After which, his liquid intake should be a balance of water, milk and liquids like fruit juices. “Limit sweetened beverages!” Reutens stresses.

Jaclyn Reutens is a dietitian at Aptima Nutrition

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