Teaching good eating habits begins as early as breastfeeding.
Teaching good eating habits begins as early as breastfeeding. A mother who eats well and is peaceful during breastfeeding, will pass on nourishing milk and a harmonious attitude towards feeding.
- After weaning a child, continue to provide yourself with nourishing food, as you will be setting an example for your children to follow.
- From the beginning, encourage your children to chew well or at least hold the food in the mouth to mix with the saliva. Parents who encourage children to eat fast may be creating problem eaters. Toddlers have small stomachs and sometimes it is best to give them smaller, more frequent meals and nutritious snacks.
- Create a positive attitude towards food and mealtimes.
- Try to eat as a family once a day. Do not air grievances at mealtimes.
- Do not force children to eat just because you think it is healthy. It is normal for children to lose their appetites for a few days at a time.
- As your children get older, involve them in helping prepare food to stimulate their interest and creativity. Dish up small amounts and let them ask for more.
- Do not bribe your children with a dessert as a reward for eating a meal or a particular food. Likewise, do not withhold dessert as punishment as you are identifying foods with emotional nourishment. This may potentially lead to eating disorders in later life.
- When introducing new foods, give a small amount at first. If your child protests, do not make a fuss, and next time give a smaller amount. It may well be that your child likes it next time.
- Ask your friends and family not to give your child junk food. It is inevitable that they will be given treats now and then, though on the whole, it is important to ensure they are given healthy snacks.
What to Feed Infants
The first solid foods given will influence what the child desires later on in life. If you give your baby food with sweeteners, oil or salt, it will have preference to sweet, oily, or salty food.
The Vegetarian Child
It is possible to raise a child as a vegetarian as long as the parents are conscientious and knowledgeable. All necessary nutrients are abundantly available in a vegetarian diet with the possible exception of B12. A supplement of 50mg B12 a week will prevent deficiency of this vitamin.
Bear in mind that a child’s digestive system is immature up until two years and therefore the digestion of protein and carbohydrates is not as efficient as that of an adult. It is important to encourage chewing particularly of grains, legumes and vegetables. Another option is to puree these foods. Regular use of goat’s milk products will support a vegetarian diet.
The soya bean is a good source of protein and calcium and provides the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (vital in brain development). It can sometimes be difficult for a child to digest. The most common forms, soy milk and tofu, can be given in small amounts.
- Do not use salt under ten months of age, as it is too hard on the kidneys. There is enough natural salt in grains and vegetables. If you are using commercial baby foods, watch for high salt or sodium content.
- Avoid common refined and rancid cooking oils including margarine. These inhibit fat metabolism.
- Raw onions and garlic are too stimulating for regular use by children but can be used to fight colds. When breastfeeding, use moderately as it can pass through to the milk.
- Avoid refined sweeteners such as fructose and white sugar.
- Chocolate contains a caffeine-like substance and oxalic acid that can inhibit calcium absorption. It also contains mucus-forming milk products and refined sugar.
- Avoid raw honey for infants less than 18 months. Raw honey sometimes contains small amounts of botulism (acute food poisoning).
- Always dilute fruit juices and serve warm or at room temperature as, bottle-fed fruit juice can cause tooth decay in the front teeth.
- Raw foods can be irritating for an infant’s digestive tract and can often contain parasites.
Food and Behaviour
It is commonly accepted that diet affects behaviour. We need only to observe the difference in children who begin to eat a balanced diet.
The same is true for adults though sometimes the change is more gradual. This is because children are more responsive and reactive to changes. A child who eats an excess of poor quality red meats is usually aggressive and emotionally stressed. Most common meats are high in the fatty acid arachidonate that forms hormone-like prostaglandins. An excess of these promotes mental and physical inflammation. When refined sugar is dominant in the diet, moodiness can result due to sugar imbalances in the blood and brain. Also, it is commonly accepted that foods high in colourings, additives and refined sugars can exacerbate hyperactivity in children.