Worried about your tots eating habits? Chances are there’s nothing to worry about. Joyce Teo of The Straits Times spoke with Dr. Angelia Chua, a family physician and consultant at Yishun Polyclinic for some insight into toddler’s appetites.
A child’s appetite may be affected by many factors, including their level of physical activity, fatigue and emotional instability. Or he could just be a picky eater, said Dr Chua.
As long as the child’s growth is normal and he is eating a balanced diet, there is no need to be concerned. “Appetite fluctuation is often transient and will not harm the child’s overall health,” Dr Chua said.
She shares the following tips.
1. ENCOURAGE SELF-FEEDING
As children learn by touching and feeling objects, exploring food with the senses may encourage their appetite. The child will also develop the motor skills and confidence required to eat with a fork or spoon. Parents should encourage a child to feed himself when he is around nine to 12 months old. “Encourage the child to pick up bite-sized pieces between his index finger and thumb as he attempts to take the food to his mouth,” Dr Chua said. Applaud every attempt and supervise the child closely to watch out for signs of choking.
2. KEEP TABS ON SNACKS
Limit snacking to twice daily, and only if your child asks for a snack. Do not give a child too much milk either, as this can reduce their appetite at mealtimes. Infants and toddlers who drink much more than 470ml to 710ml of milk a day may not want to eat other nutritious foods as they are full. They can then become underweight. But if they are still eating well, they can become overweight from the extra calories.
3. MAKE MEALTIMES ENJOYABLE
Refrain from having food battles with your child, like forcing him to eat everything on his plate. Pleasant, stress-free mealtimes can encourage a healthy appetite. Offer small portions. If he wants more, let him ask you for it. This will help him feel more in control, said Dr Chua. In some cases, a child is not simply a fussy eater, but could be a “problem feeder”. Ms Yee said a fussy eater usually accepts 30 types of foods or more, while a problem feeder usually accepts 20 types of foods or fewer. Parents whose children are underweight or are problem feeders should consult a doctor or dietitian, she said. Problem feeders likely require help from a speech therapist and an occupational therapist, as they may have oral hypersensitivity or sensory issues that make it hard for them to accept new foods, she said.
By Joyce Teo, The Straits Times, November 3, 2015