Is your child eating more but not putting on weight? Worried of your child’s nutrients intake? Vanessa McNamara, lead dietitian at The Travelling Dietitian addresses some of these concerns.

Food words

Q: My son has been buying food such as fries and fried chicken during his recess time and he is almost on the overweight range. What can I do? I have no control of the food he buys at school.

It’s time to sit down and have a chat to your son about why he is choosing these foods as his snack. Is he hungry? How do these foods make him feel? Try to make him more aware of his food choices, how they make him feel and what they taste like so that his eating becomes more of a mindful experience.

Try not to talk about his weight but more about the benefits of eating healthy food and that our body needs nutrients to be able to work properly, for energy, to be able to play sport and to keep our brain working as well as it can.

It is also important to empower your son by discussing the foods available at school and asking him to come up with some healthier alternatives that he would be willing to eat or healthy snacks he could take with him from home. Involve him as much as you can in meal planning and preparation and making decisions about the food he eats so he feels listened.

Q: My son has a great appetite and eats a lot. But he does not seem to be putting on any weight at all. In fact, he seems skinnier than before! What should I do?

The energy requirements of an active, growing boy can be high and children sometimes find it difficult to meet these requirements. It is important to look at the quality of his food as opposed to the quantity as if he is eating a lot of food with poor nutritional content, it may be difficult for him to gain weight.

Try to make sure he is:

  • Eating regular meals and snacks – 3 meals plus 2 snacks per day
  • Has a source of protein at each meal – E.g. meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, tofu, lentils, dairy
  • Has healthy fats in his diet – E.g. nuts and seeds, oily fish, avocado, olive oil
  • Has a source of carbohydrates at each meal, preferably wholegrain – E.g. brown beehoon, brown or white rice, quinoa, pasta, multigrain bread
  • Not filling up on high fat, high sugar snacks that are filling but offer little in the form of nutrients

Q: My daughter is very picky about her food and dislikes her current school’s canteen food. How can I encourage her to be more open to eat from the food stalls? What are some easy and healthy snacks or meals I can make for her?

Try to involve your daughter in planning her meals for the week ahead. Go to the school canteen together one day and ask her to come up with ideas for a well-balanced lunch that she would eat. Ideally the meal will contain vegetables and/or fruit, some carbohydrate and some protein.

If this is not possible at school, ask her to think of some suitable snacks she would enjoy instead. They could include:

  • Cheese and salad sandwich
  • Homemade savoury or fruit muffin
  • Popcorn and fresh fruit
  • Homemade soup in a thermos and slice of bread
  • A baked frittata or quiche made with egg and vegetables

Vanessa McNamara is the founder and lead dietitian at The Travelling Dietitian, a nutrition consultancy in Singapore. She has a special interest in helping families to achieve a healthy lifestyle without sacrificing their enjoyment of food. Having her own child has helped her to understand there are many challenges associated with feeding children but she believes that teaching them about nutrition from a young age will prepare them for a healthy future.

This was first published in Parenting with Love: Preparing your child for Primary School

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