Family Friday: On Picky Eaters and Feeding Woes

Second Friday of the month:  Kids and Health

"No, I don't want to eat yet."  "I still want to play." "I can't finish..."

Sounds familiar?

Everyday, there's always an excuse for my kids to escape meal times. Or maybe escape my cooking?!? (",)  Those are their usual lines up there. And now that they're both going to school, it's doubly hard to prepare a good baon or healthy snack that can sustain them through their classes.

I was fortunate to have attended seminars on parenting and wellness & nutrition, from which I make an effort to apply what I've learned in our daily lives. Part of that series is on proper feeding of children which I truly came to appreciate as a discerning mom to two growing young children.

The talk was conducted by pediatrician and health care expert Dr. Mary Jean Guno. She presented effective means of promoting proper eating habits and solutions to feeding difficulties among children. I was all ears the entire time and I'm now sharing these excerpts from her presentation:

As children tend to say “NO” to everything, parents should respect that it is a form of establishing their identity, thus, the challenge for parents to provide healthy options and give the children the “power” to choose what to eat.

Research showed that 50% of the population has eating problems.  And for hard-to-feed kids, what they end up eating are low-calorie foods or food with no nutritional value.

Tips and slide presentation by Dr. Mary Jean Guno

Here are some very helpful feeding tips from the doctor:
  • For toddlers, introduce one new food at a time and offer the new with something familiar
  • Provide 2 options
  • Try to alter the form or texture of the food to change association into more positive ones
  • Prepare complete dishes, i.e. Arroz caldo, Pesang isda
  • Add nutrients to their favorite foods: “hide” vegetables, fiber, egg, meat in the food, i.e. add veggies, egg, shredded chicken to instant noodles; in meatballs
  • Offer praise and positive reinforcement, ignore negative behavior or scolding: create an enjoyable experience during meal times, i.e. give praise for at least tasting the food; resist bribing or giving sweets to encourage them to eat
  • Create hunger: eat only within the given period of time, unfinished food should be taken away when time is up, and offer food only on the next scheduled meal
  • Serve meals at consistent intervals and times
  • Allot 20 to 30 minutes to eat; schedule meals 5x a day
  • Kids should be given the responsibility to decide how much they should eat, while parents decide food choices, the time and place to eat.
  • For compulsive eaters, start by changing the quality of food first, then, adjust the quantity of food intake
  • What is important to note is the child’s Growth Curve – good weight and proportioned to height, and not to be too concerned “thinking that the child is not eating enough”
  • For children with special needs and diet restrictions, consult a nutritionist
Dr. Guno also reminded parents to regularly offer food from the five main food groups in the Food Pyramid:

Building healthy eating habits mean offering a variety and nutrient-dense foods, and limit their access to low-nutrient, high-calorie foods such as:  store-bought crackers, chips, cookies, candies, instant noodles and powdered drinks.

It was concluded that by establishing good nutrition early in life, parents are investing in the health of their children and preventing future diseases such as metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, bulimia, among others.

After all the talks I've attended on nutrition, I was still faced with the fact that we cannot get all the required daily nutrients we need from the food we eat.  And this is when nutritional supplements may play an important role in keeping kids, and adults, fit and healthy.

Are they effective? Are they safe? Do they have side effects?

I often consider these factors before choosing what I feed my family. As I was growing up, I took my daily dose of vitamins and minerals plus other dietary supplements to promote weight-gain (some may hate me for this but I am perpetually underweight, which is a curse in my case!).  Thankfully, I was not a sickly kid and, despite the weight problem, I was generally healthy. So aside from trying to provide nutritious meals, I also believe in the benefits of health supplements to aid in their growth and overall wellness.

Giving children appropriate vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin A & D, vitamin B complex, iron and calcium, among others, can be essential supplements for picky eaters. Of course, always consult your doctor first before giving them any supplements.

In reality it's very difficult to provide a balanced diet and the variety of food that children need. That is why for me, proper feeding combined with multivitamins or nutritional supplements do make a lot of sense.

Read more about the top supplements for healthier kids here.

Resource speaker:
Dr. Mary Jean Guno
Pediatrician / Health Care Expert
Talk was organized by DML-PTA