Feeding children has lots of ups and downs and this is particularly hard for first time parents. Dr Bertha Tendo, a nutritionist with Corsu, says: “Food habits are shaped at home, therefore, if you have never given your child, say, avocado, you cannot expect them to eat it with ease. The first thing is to do early weaning so that by six months, you start introducing a variety of other foods to help your child get accustomed to them.”
Anita Kajumba desired to pack for her children nutritious foods but they always returned it. “Though they rarely ate fruits, I thought they would easily consume them with friends. However, they always brought them back at the end of the day,” she says.
Dr Tendo advises parents to pack for their children familiar foods. Furthermore, the appearance of the food at the time of eating matters. She therefore says, “If it is a banana, do not peel it and invest in containers that have holes for aeration.
She, however, does not recommend parents to ask teachers to help. “When you show a child that you are begging them to eat food, you go into a struggle.”
Marylyn Ameso has struggled with one allergy after another with her child. “While I noticed some owing to swellings on her body, there were others I dismissed for rejecting food, such as vomiting,” she says.
Dr Tendo says signs of allergies include, swelling, itching, diarrhoea, vomiting, coughing, and hives.
“To handle food allergies, a parent or caretaker ought to avoid the offending foods, keep a food diary, avoid places where a variety of food is given as there could be cross-contamination, and to look at ingredients when buying processed foods,” she advises.
Start at home
While she struggled to ensure she fed her children on healthy food, Eugenia Nabasumba was so disappointed to learn that all her efforts were going to waste.
“My daughter’s teacher told me that she was giving out all her break for chips and crackers. It hurt, given that she was asthmatic.”
Dr Nabirye Zabina, an Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) specialist at The Diet Clinic, Bukoto says, “It starts from home; encourage them to eat healthy, tell them about the consequences of eating junk food and the benefits of healthy foods.” The fact that these children never eat junk at all is what makes them exchange the healthy foods for the junk. “Therefore, indulging them once in a while is a great idea.”
Dr Nabirye Zabina, an Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) specialist at The Diet Clinic, Bukoto concludes with advice to parents of picky eaters: You need to be patient with them; do not fight, as this will bring about anxiety and frustrations. You also have to try and make meal time as peaceful as possible while respecting your child’s appetite as some eat a lot while others do not.
Make it a point to prepare the nutrient dense meals so that despite eating little, it is rich. However, you also need to watch out for their growth to prevent them from getting malnourished.
While at that, do not bribe them; if you eat this I will give you a sweet lest they have you around their finger. Try to give small portions as huge portions could overwhelm them, more so when it is food they do not like and developing a routine will really help you and your child; the meal times need to be consistent.
Even if they have refused to eat, let them sit at the table so as to get accustomed to the times for meals. Lastly, do not allow the picky eater to snack on sweet things otherwise they will be satisfied during meal time. Give them only a fruit or water in between meals.