Most mothers or caretakers are aware of the importance of a balanced diet for their children. However, when it comes to children, it is difficult to force them to eat something they do not want. Some even at one or two months old reject breast milk leaving their parents to scamper for alternatives.
It is common occurrence to find children preferring snacks to nutritious food, getting parents to beg, command, bribe and sweet-talk the little darlings. For most parents, food available at home is what the children take to school. For others, it is what the children ask for that is packed in the break or lunch container.
Barbara Ofwono Buyondo, the principal of Victorious Education Services says: “In our schools, children do not pack food anymore.” She explains that this was a result of parents packing for children foods that do not help their development. Such foods as soda, crisps or chips.
Gabriel Ocom, a nutrition manager with Baylor Uganda, and Ofwono caution parents to focus on providing a balanced diet. They both agree that children should be given natural foods like fruits, homemade juice, whole bread, cereal like maize, and pack less processed foods.
Winnie Bagonza, a principal and teacher at Winnie Chimes kindergarten, advises parents to stick to healthy snacks and stay away from foods with preservatives in them.
She adds that since there is a variety of foods in Uganda, parents can alternate snacks for the child throughout the week.
“For example, when packing something to drink for children, opt for homemade juice, water or even milk,” suggests Bagonza. She discourages parents from settling for foods with preservatives since they can cause children to lose appetite and are not easy to digest.
Even when a child does not love a certain type of food, parents can mix that type of food with something the child likes to eat, cut food like fruits into shapes, to add colour and variety to the food, making for attractive meals.
The picky eater
According to Dr Sabrina Kitaka, a senior lecturer, paediatrician and adolescent health specialist in the department of paediatrics at Makerere University:
• The food a parent packs for a child depends on whether the parent can afford it or not and whether the child will eat it.
• Parents should pack food that will not go stale quickly. For example, pineapples would go stale in about two hours and would cause the child abdominal pain.
• For children who do not like certain types of fruits or food, parents can work around the variety of fruits and food we have in Uganda to find one their child likes.
• Ultimately, ensure the child gets some protein, vitamins, roughage and carbohydrates.