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Controlling Table Tantrums
Sep 07, 2018

Controlling Table Tantrums

When an aggressive feeder lays out a meal for a fussy eater, the result can be catastrophic. Moms and nutritional experts on making meals fun and healthy

When Anika Godbole turned two, her parents moved to Mumbai from the UK. With climate and other changes, the infant turned recluse and irritable. For her mother Mayura, it was tough to see her baby become choosy about food, drink only milk, and be constipated all the time. While consulting nutritionist Toral Shah for her own diet plan, she mentioned of the struggle in feeding her daughter who got to the root of the problem. 'The food we eat has an effect on mood disorders, allergies and infections. Anika's diet at the time consisted of only milk and no iron. Drinking more than 450ml of cow's milk a day decreases the absorption of iron from other dietary sources too and its deficiency makes kids cranky,' explains Shah who recommended small and frequent meals like soft spinach or methi dosas and parathas with curd. Carrot, cucumber, and beetroot sticks with curd dip for snacks and milk was to be given during breakfast and snack time.

Easier said than done, Anika refused to follow the diet, so Shah asked Mayura to fall back on the favourites. She started with dalia (made from soft chana dal instead of wheat) and sesame seeds chikki for starters. Next came varan thatand khichdi, followed by roti sabzi. "It was a slow progress but the idea was to remain steady and not give up. Most parents fail because they dont stick to the plan to see the long term results," says Shah. Godbole’s persistence paid off and Anika slowly began to follow the recommended diet.

Start early

Early Childhood Association's president Dr Swati Popat Vats believes that children are not eating right these days because adults are not eating right. 'Children 'see', children 'do'. Eating food with additives, deplete the neurons in the brain. About 98 per cent of the brain develops in the first five years. What you feed your child in these years creates the foundation of their health,' she says. Force-feeding can make children throw up, or cause an upset stomach. 'Children eat when they are hungry so instead of chasing them, wait till they are hungry. Also dont force hunger on them to fit into your routine to accommodate your nap time etc,” says Vats.

Bring back the desi meal

Shah says, 'Fast food is a completely paradox to the traditional Hindustani rasoi that has a combination of five tastes - sweet, sour, pungent, salty, and bitter. Junk food is loaded with white poisons like sugar, salt, white flour, added chemicals, preservations and flavours. The chemicals in these foods lead to an epidemic of mood swings in children, aggressiveness, hyperactive behaviour, lack of concentration, attention deficit and crankiness, etc. It's little wonder then that children with obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, bone issues and anemia are not unheard of,' says Shah. In the four-title book series of Kids Food Planet, Shah goes on to explain the importance of eating right by choice and not by force and introducing them to the cuisines of India through easy-to-make recipes, puzzles, games, and facts.

Vats suggests parents to become their child's dietician and to make a weekly chart to find out if the diet is balanced or not. This eliminates the chances of developing deficiency or an excess of any nutrients. Chasing health and wellness during adulthood could be too late; so it's best to inculcate the right habits in childhood that lead to a healthy body and mind, says Dr Arbinder Singal, pediatrician, CEO, FitterFly.

Don't screen

Shah says, Fast food is a completely paradox to the traditional Hindustani rasoi that has a combination of five tastes - sweet, sour, pungent, salty, and bitter. Junk food is loaded with white poisons like sugar, salt, white flour, added chemicals, preservations and flavours. The chemicals in these foods lead to an epidemic of mood swings in children, aggressiveness, hyperactive behaviour, lack of concentration, attention deficit and crankiness, etc. Its little wonder then that children with obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, bone issues and anemia are not unheard of," says Shah. In the four-title book series of Kids Food Planet, Shah goes on to explain the importance of eating right by choice and not by force and introducing them to the cuisines of India through easy-to-make recipes, puzzles, games, and facts.

The biggest challenge parents face is to feed the child without giving them a gadget. "I overcame this difficulty by taking meal time as an opportunity for pretend play, where Saisha becomes my mummy, and I discuss my days routine with her - pretending to be a child. She loves to take on my responsibility. This gives us time together and it inculcates a feeling of caring in her," says Dipti Bali, mother of tvy^>-and-a-half-year-old Saisha. Saisha has milk and an egg or porridge in the morning; upma or sandwich or paratha for breakfast; fruits and a few soaked almonds mid-morning; a small chapati, veggies, dal, rice and curd for lunch and dinner and her evening snacks includes uptna or oats or com flakes and milk, or yakult or soya milk. After dinner, its half cup of milk.

Dont bribe

Bribing children with chocolate or screen times is unhealthy. Using comfort food or indulgence as , bait can make them addicted to it. Instead, be a good role model for your children and reward them with hugs and kisses when they try new food, says Shah.

Cut supplies

"When you dont let them decide which school to go to, why offer a choice in food which will lay the foundation of their health? Lay the rules, set a routine and let children learn to eat what is prepared for all family members. You wont open a pack of slow poison for your child then why reach out to packaged foods that will hamper their growth? Keep a variety of home-cooked snacks handy and let them exercise the power of choice through healthy ingredients like carrot or cucumber stick; jaggery laddu or chikki? chana or peanuts?" suggests Shah.

Farm to table

Build positive relationship with food to build the foundation of healthy adulthood. "Make children respect the hardship the farmers go through to get food to our plate. Involve them in growing food at home, plan menus, go shopping and cook together. Assign age-appropriate tasks like peeling boiled potatoes, tearing salad leaves, de-shelling peas - theyll be more excited to eat food which they have helped to make. Let them set the table before meals," suggests Shah.

Make mealtimes fun

Both parents should eat at least one meal with their child. "Fix a time and stick to it, with no in between snacks. Make it fun by arranging food in the shape of a car or a castle or create an imaginative outer space and name the food accordingly. Storytelling to woo your child to eat is a good idea but avoid scary tales, as this may affect -digestion. When frightened, kids don’t chew the food well, while digestion starts from the enzymes in the saliva in our mouth. Also, when fear is induced, adrenalin is secreted and blood supply is redirected elsewhere in the body and hence digestion suffers," says Vats

Trick or treat

"Peer pressure and luring TV commercials make the struggle more difficult but what worked for me was tactics. 1 look up online for ideas on restaurant-like plating and serving," says Godbole. Her burger patties are made with sweet potatoes, beans, carrots and rajma, dosas have vegetable stuffings and -minestrone soup is served with homemade focassia bread. "Do a twist in tale with leftover roti que-sadillas stuffed with vegetables and beans, bajra base for pizzas, topped1 2 with vegetables and grated paneer or cheese," suggests Shah.

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