My 2 year old nephew came to spend his holidays at our house and he hardly eats healthy food. If you bring food close to him, he cries till the food is taken away. At times, he would be hungry and still refuse to eat anything except biscuits and candy.
I know it is necessary for him to eat healthy food so he can grow and develop, but he does not seem to have any interest.
Why does he not eat? What can I do to make him eat? And how do I make him develop a healthy eating habit from a tender age?
WHY DOES HE NOT EAT?
Predicting the eating habit of your child is hard. There are some days he eats almost everything you give, and there are other days when it becomes war to eat a little food. Also, eating habits vary amongst children.
- Introduction of new food to him
This is the most frustrating of them all. At first, he smells it and anticipates the taste of the food. Once it enters his mouth, he spits it out and runs away.
- Medical conditions
Constipation, infections, and many other disease conditions can affect a child’s appetite.
Toddlers usually eat less when they are teething because of the gum discomfort they have.
- Pressure from parents and caregivers
This is very common with caregivers and parents, and it affects how children eat. We watch their every move to make sure they eat, try to spoon-feed them, or feel anxious about their not eating.
- They are bored of sitting down while being fed. They are easily distracted and want to play while eating.
- They are simply not hungry as they have eaten lots of junk food and consumed a lot of liquid (water, milk, and juices)
- The portions of food given to them are large and they are discouraged to start eating.
- They are picky eaters.
WHAT CAN I DO TO MAKE HIM EAT?
- Understand your child
Understanding children with their unpredictable, random, and different patterns of eating is important. Do not try to micromanage them.
As parents and caregivers, we usually go into meals with an agenda, an intention to “get this child to eat”. But the simple truth is: “it is not your job to get that child to eat”.
When we begin to feel frustrated about them not eating, we often use techniques like bribing them; shaming them and comparing them to other children; punishments among others. These may work short term but can negatively impact their eating habits and nutrition.
- Give your child the freedom of feeding himself at his own pace. Although, it would create a big mess, it is worth it.
- Engage them while cooking or preparing their meals. I know it sounds funny or awkward, but it makes them feel ready and willing to eat.
- Change your serving style.
- Invent different serving styles for new meals and even meals they are already used to. Their curiosity will make them look forward to meal time and eating.
- When they are not hungry, do not force them. Give them their space. Try again in few hours.
- Serve small food portions.
- For new food types, give them a little portion to taste before adding it to their meals.
AND HOW DO I MAKE HIM DEVELOP A HEALTHY EATING HABIT FROM A TENDER AGE?
Making mealtime fun and interesting can make your child develop healthy eating habits.
Serve your child the same time everyone else is eating. While eating, focus on your own meal and allow them to explore their meals however they want.
Study and understand their eating patterns.
If a child rejects a food type, do not force it on him or her. As the child continues to observe that everybody else eats that particular food type without complaints he or she will too.
Image credit: istock photos
Ezike Nonye is a Pharmacist who completed her Bachelor degree from University of Lagos (B.Pharm). She is currently exploring digital marketing analytics as a novel field in Pharmacy practice while also interning at the Federal Medical Center (FMC) Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria. She is a graphic designer, a blogger and an entrepreneur. She is passionate about creating new things from nature and believes that there is no limitation to what you can achieve. She is a Christian and loves writing and open to new ideas and skills.