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Good nutrition is essential for a child’s growth and development, especially during early childhood. Most of a child’s development occurs during childhood and during these phases, the nutritional requirements of a child need to be fulfilled.
If a child doesn’t receive adequate nutrition during their growth phases, they are more likely to grow with malnourishment. Malnourishment is a common health problem among children and occurs when a child doesn’t get adequate nutrients during the growth phase.
What is malnutrition?
Malnourishment could be very problematic and can result in compromised growth and development in children. Malnourishment in children is often indicated by;
1- Sudden weight loss in children
2- Reduced BMI (body mass index)
3- Recurrent infections and diseases
4- Poor eating and feeding habits
5- Long recovery time after a disease
My cousin’s daughter had unintentional weight loss when she was only 3 years old. She took her to many renowned child specialists in Karachi. Later, the child was diagnosed with a behaviour problem that was the cause of her malnourishment.
Causes of malnutrition in children
Some of the major contributing factors of malnutrition in children include;
- Low weight at the time of birth
- Food insecurity
- Socioeconomic status
- Lack of knowledge about the nutrition
- Troubling eating behaviours
How to deal with picky eaters?
One of the prominent causes of malnourishment in children is poor eating behaviour. My cousin’s daughter was a picky eater and was treated for her malnourishment at the child care clinic of Karachi. Her treatment consisted of behaviour therapy to resolve her issue. Here are some of the proven ways to deal with picky-eaters and minimize their risk of malnourishment.
1- Add variety to their plate
One possible reason behind your child’s selective eating behaviour could be that they are tired of eating the same food daily. You can make their food interesting by adding more variety to their plate. Other than their normal food, add at least one new ingredient to develop their interest in eating. Make sure you are not adding too many different food ingredients to the plate at once and avoiding repetition of the same menu every single day.
2- Involve your children in the food making process
Another way to deal with picky eaters is by involving the children in the food growing, buying or preparing process. Considering their age, you can allow them to be involved in different stages of food making. Allow them to whisk eggs, add milk to the cereals, and set a salad plate to develop their interest in food exploration. This will automatically make them more interested in eating and improve their picky-eating behaviour.
3- Try cooking variations
Your children might not like when a food item was first served on their plate. However, it doesn’t mean that the child will never try that particular food. Next time while you are putting the same food item on your tables, try varying it either by changing the cooking method or serving style. Repeated exposure to a particular food time could convince the children to try it at least once.
4- Pair things up!
As per the general rule, desserts are usually served after the meal. However, serving dessert along with food can motivate children to eat their food in a better way. You can make the desert a reward for the child who will complete their veggies. This will automatically develop as a habit in children and they will become habitual of finishing whatever is kept on their plate.
5- Don’t force them to eat
Picky-eaters are hard to deal with but parents should never force their children to eat when they don’t want to eat. Forcing your children to eat while sitting at the dinner table can make them stubborn. Rather than forcing, encouraging your child to eat is a more favourable approach that can help with the picky eating behaviour in children.
Picky eating is a common behaviour among children and can result in poor nutrition. Forcing your child to eat can be even more problematic, however, you can try all of the above-mentioned ways to encourage your children to eat. However, if your child persistently shows poor eating behaviour, it is recommended to seek out help from a good paediatrician and get them treated.