Keeping to a regular eating pattern is important for children. Ms Suzanne Khor, Senior Dietician at Thomson Paediatric Centre (The Child Development Centre) tells us why.
Young children tend to eat better when there is a fixed timing or pattern for meals and snacks. Understanding children’s eating behaviour is important for our children’s future health as evidence indicates that dietary habits acquired in childhood persist through to adulthood. They are better prepared to eat as they have an idea of when is the next meal time (e.g. after time at the playground/ before bath time etc).
As play is the ‘work’ of a child, usually they will not want to eat when they haven’t finished playing with something. Often, children have difficulty moving on from one activity to another. If you do not implement any fixed timing of meals and activities, a lot of protest may ensue. Pre-empt your child that it will soon be meal time a few minutes before, so they will be ready to stop playing.
Some common problem eating behaviours may include:
- Meal-time tantrums and food refusal
- Grazing and snacking on sweets/ non-nutritive snacks
- Fussy eating
- Preference for certain textures (not age-appropriate)/ refusal to chew
- Reduced intake of food or reliance on drinks.
Children will learn to eat what others in the family eat if they are offered the same food and encouraged to consume it. As children have varied appetites, it is normal that they ask for small and regular snacks. As long as you do not force your child to finish all the food on their plate, they will stop when they are full. By providing healthy snacks, you will provide the energy and nutrition your child needs during the day.
An example of a regular eating pattern is:
By Ms Suzanne Khor
Senior Dietician at Thomson Paediatric Centre
The Child Development Centre Novena Medical Centre
The Child Development Centre
10 Sinaran Drive
#09-04 Novena Medical Centre
Tel: 6397 6627/ 6397 6966 (hotline)
This article was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine