In an era where nutrition is becoming more of a focus and disease rates are increasing at exponential rates, we as parents are under huge amounts of pressure to get ‘feeding-our-children’ right.

It is our responsibility to help our children develop good eating habits and a positive relationship with food. We need them to learn to love food and the social importance it carries, but also understand the necessity of balance, portion control and healthy choices.

As parents, we can guide our children from a very young age and thus prevent them from becoming a statistic.

A Solid Start

The second six months of life is a rollercoaster of new flavours and textures for your child. It is a messy, but exciting and fun time. This is a window of opportunity when your child is open to new foods. Be bold! Offer as much variety as you can, the more flavours and textures your child is exposed to the better during this time.

The weaning period will be the foundation to eating going forward. If at first your child appears to dislike a certain food, persevere and still offer it regularly. It can take many exposures to a food before it is accepted.

Toddling On

Although the quantity of food your child eats may decrease after the first year of life; the quality of their diet is still very important. The toddler years are a wonderful time where our children are learning rapidly and becoming more independent. Asserting independence can lead to fussiness and food refusal but in most cases this is a normal phase of development and passes with time.

It is the parents’ responsibility to ensure that a routine of meals and snacks is maintained. The meals that we offer must be nutritious and correctly balanced.

Hunger will always prevail! If your toddler refuses a meal, avoid filling them with milk, juice or unhealthy snacks; this will ensure a good appetite for the next meal and inevitably an empty plate.

Be a good example; family meals where each person is dished every component of the meal and it is enjoyed together is a great way to motivate young children to eat well.

Eating Through the School Years

As your child grows and learns they will make more choices for themselves. Correct choices are informed ones. We as parents still decide what we are going to cook or put into lunch boxes, but our children ultimately decide what and how much they are going to eat.

Educate your children and teach them the value of good nutrition. Serve balanced meals with a variety of colourful and nutritious foods. Continue to encourage regular meals and healthy snacks, this will help meet the demands of school and sporting activities.

Just because they are kids it doesn’t mean that they have to be given processed unrecognisable ‘food’ laden with salt and additives!

Allow them to enjoy the treats, but reserve these to have once or twice weekly in a controlled portion rather than every day. Moderation is key!

Food for Thought

Eating is a learned behaviour and we as parents are our children’s primary feeding educators.

Teach your child the art of healthy eating and give them a priceless gift; the gift of health.

Article Credit: Claire McHugh (Claire is a registered dietitian in private practice in Ballito and Durban North. Claire is both a paediatric dietitian and a lactation consultant. )