Eating habits in childhood: are we doing it right?

Many parents approach pediatricians or nutrition professionals with a concern: how to instill in their children the most suitable eating habits . As we all know, a good diet from childhood is decisive in the physical and intellectual development of any person.

My child is not hungry: causes of poor appetite

Pediatrician Jorge Washington Alvear, from the Avansalud Clinic, affirms that “the most frequent consultations that are made to pediatricians is about the lack of appetite in boys and this may be due to various factors.” According to this specialist, among the reasons for loss of appetite in childhood are the following:

  • Physical discomfort. The discomfort associated with a physical ailment will decrease the child’s desire to eat.
  • Excessive servings. Sometimes we serve more food than the child needs to the point of saturation. Then the child loses what Washington Alvear calls “the love” for food.
  • Food rations outside the usual hours .
  • Nasal congestion. According to Washington Alvear, the nasal congestions caused by viral infections can cause food reluctance in our children. It is due to fatigue and discomfort when breathing typical of the symptoms. This makes it even more difficult for them to breathe and eat simultaneously. Faced with this dilemma, says the pediatrician, many children choose to breathe by giving up food intake.
  • The irritation of throat or mouth sores .
  • Anorexy. If the child does not present any physical difficulties such as those mentioned so far, or is forced to eat excessive food rations or after hours and yet refuses to eat, it is possible that we are facing a case of infantile anorexia. In this case, it is best to consult with a specialist in these types of disorders.

When do I have to worry if my child loses their appetite?

You may also notice that that “round” look typical of babies is disappearing. However, if the growth curve shows the correct percentiles, you shouldn’t worry. Nor is it alarming that the child stops consuming one of the meals on some occasion. In fact, your appetite will most likely regain your appetite in time . What is essential is that, when in doubt, you consult your pediatrician. Together with a dietitian-nutritionist, he will monitor the child’s growth curve, evaluating each stage of his development.

What other factors can influence children’s appetites?

Often times, the causes of a child’s loss of appetite lie on the table without our realizing it. A common example is the general malaise or, simply, the instability associated with a stage of change such as a home move or a new school.

There are also characteristic growth processes , such as teething, which can cause discomfort to the child when chewing. Even the environment or mood of the family group in which a child lives can become distracting or nervous at mealtime . This is what happens with noisy places or with entertainment such as the television, the computer and some games that require a lot of concentration or a great display of activity. These are practices that, carried out before meals, can be the cause of that distraction that worries us so much.

Tips to stimulate the appetite of children

Here are some tips to stimulate your child’s appetite

  • The presentation of strained, chopped dishes and any other food should always be pleasing to the eye.
  • The temperature of the food should be optimal: neither too hot nor too cold .
  • It is advisable to avoid children eating in front of the television . After all, mealtime is an ideal time for family communion.
  • Children must be taught eating habits and accustomed, at least, to a fixed time and place for meals .
  • Invite the child to collaborate with you in the preparation of food , this can be a stimulus for his appetite.
  • Do not scold or punish the child when he does not want to eat . In this way, the only thing that you will achieve is that you associate food with punishment.
  • Teach him a daily physical exercise to stimulate his appetite and, if possible, practice it with him.
  • Do not pressure the child when he does not want to eat . Only when it becomes a very frequent situation should you turn to the pediatrician.

The development of healthy eating habits in childhood

It is necessary to remember that infant feeding must not only be pleasant but also must be healthy, varied and balanced. Let’s not forget that it is in childhood when we can help children the most to create the habit of drinking water . Its consumption should be at least 4 glasses a day .

Around the age of two , the child should already have between four and five daily meals: breakfast, morning snack, lunch, snack and dinner . This is the key period for learning proper eating habits . Eating habits begin in the family nucleus and are complemented in the school environment. For this reason, the school, parents, teachers and those in charge of feeding children play a very important role in them .

Changes in children’s diet during school

On the other hand, during the school stage the motor and cognitive maturation of the child allows him to accept and tolerate the adult diet without difficulty. Generally, at this stage no new feeding problems appear. However, the bad habits that developed in preschool age are maintained . At least those who weren’t seen on time. In particular, behavioral disorders of appetite due to excess or deficit. Still, some children with feeding problems in preschool outgrow it to school age.

Along with good eating habits, these simple tips will help our children have optimal development and growth . In addition, they will also protect them from many diseases throughout their lives.

So, my final recommendation is that we take advantage and enjoy the child’s nutritional learning time . This will allow us to strengthen our emotional ties with him, making this stage a succession of pleasant moments that in turn reinforce the health of the future adult.

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