Nutrition

This is one aspect of life that holds paramount importance for every parent. No matter what our lifestyle, eating habits or food preferences have been, the minute a couple is expecting to have a baby, the whole focus shifts to eating healthy, nutritious food.

So far so good, but this topic becomes alarmingly important when the precious child turns into a toddler and starts fussing about eating food.

A picky eater as per the Urban dictionary is defined as: A person that is adverse to a wide variety of foods; additionally picky eaters often display an unwillingness to try new foods, or any food that contains even a small amount of a food they do not like.

A fussy eater is one (as per the Urban dictionary) who: Someone that’s so picky about their food and is always complaining about it. A lot of times these people only want the food that they want and wouldn’t want to eat what ever they got.

Having had the differences charted out, right from the age when Pari switched to eating solids, I knew, I have a fussy eater at hand. As pediatricians like to put it, all children in their early years are fussy eaters because they’re in a stage of experimenting with new tastes, flavors, textures and more of the various food groups with their taste buds growing. Armed with this knowledge but backed by the history of coming from a family that has never seen a fussy eater (in its immediate relations) I knew I must be prepared for a major battle at the dining table in the days to come.

“I am a better person when I have less on my plate.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert

When you hail from a family that has never seen kids or adults being picky about what to eat, you run the humongous advantage of ordering any food, any time without worrying about it being accepted by the family. But the things turned dramatically as Pari grew up. I could be seen fretting, sweating, worrying and going nuts trying to make my toddler eat a morsel. Yes, it was that scary because right from the start.

To begin with, Pari has had an aversion for sweets. She doesn’t like them. At all.

Before you try to say “What’s the big deal?” think twice. Every thing in this world designed to feed a baby is actually sweet. Cookies, toffees,  jams, sauces, spreads, cakes, ice-creams, puddings, fruit juices, milkshakes, even children’s medicines and the list is endless.

The second tough bit was Pari had inherited my strong sense of smell. She can smell food and 80% of the times can correctly identify what it is made up of. So trying to act clever hiding nutritious foods or the one she doesn’t like requires one to be really smarty pants (that I clearly am not).

The third  difficulty was she despises fats. You try to grease her roti with ghee or butter she won’t let you bring it near her. You try to add cheese to her food, a flake or two is great, but the minute you feel encouraged, in Pari’s eyes you’ve gone overboard and there she refuses to touch it.

The fourth and the biggest bummer is Pari has zero inkling towards food. She eats only to survive, if she had the choice to go on with life without food, she’d happily opt for it.

“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” ― Mark Twain

With these clear set of issues, when Pari was around 7 to 8 months old, I was crazy worried as to what to feed her to get to eat solids because she seemed to be surviving only on milk and I knew it well that won’t suffice as she grew up.

That’s when my pediatrician told me that since my child clearly didn’t like the usual stuff kids loved, I must help her find her favorites by letting her taste as many variety of foods as I possibly can and keep noting what works and what does not.

The task was uphill because I am a die-hard foodie. I love food and more so cooking food. It makes my heart bleed when I fail to prepare a bowl of food that my child could enjoy and would polish off without fuss any day. But, giving up has never been an option.

During the course of helping Pari discover foods that were both nutritious and were the ones she readily ate (that are still countable on the fingers of my one hand) I learnt the following valuable lessons:Nutrition- The Era I Lived In

  1. Being a fussy eater is normal in young children but being a non-eater is a real challenge: This meant that when Pari didn’t like what all was cooked and served during mealtimes, she happily chose to stay hungry (much to my angst). No parent in this world can watch their children go to sleep with an empty stomach no matter what the circumstances. This was when I started giving in to her requests of eating fried chicken. I am well-aware that eating fried foods is not a healthy option. But eating it around twice to thrice a week when the child clearly hasn’t been eating anything much, didn’t leave me with much thought or choices.
  2. Milk can’t be a staple diet for a child older than a year: When Pari was younger than two years, she refused to eat any solid foods beyond tasting a morsel here and there, I used to keep her fed on milk. But clearly, plain milk was not sufficient for the growth and development of a spirited child who looked at sleeping as a waste of time. The outcome was her milk feeds were too frequent and so were the episodes of her going cranky (cause of hunger).
  3. Fresh fruits and vegetables are precious parts of a healthy diet: We read and hear this often but never before it meant so much to me as it does now. Right from the start, Pari loved her fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts. This was the only time when she never hesitated in eating something sweet, though Mango was something she happily avoided because of its sweetness (I know you almost choked at that one…. relax…. you’re not alone).
  4. Fruit juices are not the ultimate healthy drinks for children: As is usually thought, fruit juices aren’t always the healthiest drinks (unless prepared fresh every time) and if you’re child isn’t particularly fond of them (like Pari) trying coconut water and fresh buttermilk, they can be really healthy, tasty and satisfying.
  5. Force feeding is a strict no-no: When Pari was around an year old, under familial pressure my mother had urged me to force feed Pari because clearly she was not eating enough for her age. That was the only time, this topic was discussed in my family when my father and I together put our foot down on “We’re never going to force feed Pari, let her enjoy her food or not eat it.”. This has stood strong till date.
  6. Listen to the body: Every individual is unique and so are their body requirements. If Food-1you’d chart out Pari’s eating plan all through the day, you’d feel she eats the amount of food probably a two-year-old would find inadequate. But, on this issue, my child’s pediatrician had once said “Pari is very active and is a fast learner. Her body weight and height too are well within the normal range with no signs of any deficiencies. This implies, she is eating the right amount of food that she needs at this stage.” These words have been my guiding light that have helped me stay sane and not be influenced by the parents of my child’s friends who have kids almost 1.5 times to double her weight. Mind you, Pari is nowhere a skinny child and if you met her anytime (except meal times) you’d never get an inkling on her food habits.
  7. Let a child decide what they want to eat and when should they stop: This is one rule, I made after I became a parent much to my parent’s horror. I have always been the person who never gets up from the dining table (at home or anywhere else) without polishing off her plate. Still I do not stand by the belief that for a child for whom the food was served by the parent, she should be forced to eat beyond what she thinks her tummy can take. While practicing this one rule, I always ask Pari before serving to make her comply and eat as much or as little she has had me serve her. On 70 % occasions she eats 90% food on her plate and that in my eyes is good enough. Though I encourage her to taste everything that has been cooked. Even if it means eating just a bite.
  8. Mealtimes are family times with no distraction allowed: Eating with TV on is one thing I despise but am unable to avoid especially during dinnertime . Still emphasis on eating meals together as the family, having fun, chatting away helps alleviate stress a fussy eater can so often build up in a parent. I try my best to ignore looking disturbed when Pari refuses to eat her food, eating my own meal to show her that she won’t get any attention for throwing up a fuss.We never (except when Pari is sick) oblige to her special food demands. Everyone gets to eat the same food.
  9. Junk food is not banned but is not encouraged: Ever since Pari stepped in school, her exposure to the junk food has been tremendous. I do not blame it on peer pressure because it is in fact the era of the fast food. But my family is an odd one out. Though we enjoy our pizzas, pastas, burgers and fries but I love to make them all myself. However, we are strict about the frequency of eating junk and also about our soda intake. Pari’s grandparents and I drink perhaps a liter of cola drinks per annum. So on that front we are leading Pari by example to enjoy home-cooked meals more and only  occasionally eating out.

I’ll stop at that because I have come to feel, perhaps I can write a whole book on this topic.

In a nutshell, I am clear that I am not at war trying to feed my child by hook or crook. I am ready to play on, patiently waiting for my child to fall in love with food of her own choice. Because love can’t be forced and falling in love with food is one of the best feelings ever.

Are you a picky eater or have a child who is?

What strategies do you employ to help your child eat healthy? 

What are the areas where you struggle in making your child eat healthy?

* This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge 2016. My theme is Parenting.

Please find my other posts here.

42 thoughts on “Nutrition

  1. I am a picky fussy eater :p
    Hides face*
    But I eat now a days looking at my weakness .
    Interesting take on nutrition ..
    Convincing kids to eat Is toughest task
    When mamma runs after a child for that one time meal.

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  2. Phew! Meal-times were eternal wars at my place. My daughter was just like Pari, hated anything organic and would never put a morsel into her mouth or be tempted by even treats like junk foods and sweets. I did try all tactics I could but eventually had to let go. My pediatrician advised the very same things yours did! Maybe its their standard line to pacify hysterical moms! But the good news is that eventually kids settle down or normalize…they will still be poor eaters but I observe that it is common to the new-gen kids. You have suggested some great tips to get them settle to healthy eating habits. Cheers 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. {Hugs} Kala.
      I agree, the pediatricians can often sense the anxiety in parents that is why they choose to calm them down they way they did to us. But in the long run, I guess that is the right thing to do. I too have realized feeding habits are largely influenced by the child’s personality beside other things. So eventually, we can only hope that our hard-work will bear fruit and our kids will start eating better.
      Thank you Kala for sharing your personal experience. It always feels good to connect with parents who have been in the similar situations 🙂

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  3. I’m not a fussy or picky eater. I can also manage to eat tasteless food experiments without a complaint. And trust me, eating lunch/dinner with a fussy/picky eater is like torture for me. The way they always want to order something that’s not on the menu, and make thousand tantrums when the dish finally arrives on the table.
    But maybe Pari will grow out of it? Like you said, children are fussy eaters because they are experimenting with the tastes and all.
    And it’s a good thing that you let her decide how much she wants on her plate. These are just little things, but they help a lot in decision making. I still end up underfeeding myself at a buffet dinner 😀
    Great post, as usual! And do check out my blog post tomorrow 🙂

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    1. Under-feeding at a buffet is bad. When there are so many options, why not try a bit of all?
      I am quite like you in my eating habits, that’s why food has never been a worry for me while travelling any corner of the world. But things have changed now, I am forever calculating if I go anywhere what will I be feeding Pari. That can be pretty exhausting.
      Thank you dear ❤

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    1. I believe most parents have been in my shoes at one point or the other,except my parents and that leaves them doubly surprised as me when Pari throws her tantrums.
      I’m glad you found my post helpful, we’re all learning from each other’s experiences.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you’ve grown to love more and more foods. A few exceptions are always acceptable till you have a way of eating something fulfilling and nutritious suiting your liking 🙂
      Thank you Parul.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad Reema that you grew up to love food 🙂
      I agree, staying away from home teaches tolerance and liking for a wide spectrum of foods like nothing else can.
      More power to you girl. Keep eating well while experimenting new foods 😀

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  4. Great points through and through. It’s probably good that she doesn’t like fatty foods in the long run.
    My son was a picky eater, but is slowly changing. I think taste for certain foods is acquired with age.
    Useful post, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A very useful post for me. Bambi is a very fussy eater and feeding her has been my biggest parenting challenge till date.
    It is reassuring to know what Pari’s paediatrician said about eating just the right amount required for their body.
    Your lessons learned are also very useful to know. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. The more I read about Bambi, the more I feel you and I have so many similar challenges in our journey as a parent. I agree it is very frustrating to have to worry about feeding a child all day when I never ever spare a thought about what I should be eating.
      I’m glad you found my post useful TH 😀
      {Hugs}

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  6. I was and may be still am a picky eater. Hated having vegetables all my life and the only thing I had was Mom’s ‘special’ fried rice- cos’ she used to add all sorts of vegetables to it and I had them happily. I know it is hard as a parent to feed your child. I have seen Moms tie their kids to the pram to force feed them. Sigh!

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    1. I am sure with your new-found love with food in cooking so many tasty dishes all the time, you sure have found a way to eat well and nutritious while suiting your palate.
      Fried Rice is a great way to feed protein and veges to kids, I too make it often.
      But force feeding is nothing but torture, best avoided.

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  7. Sara

    Being a picky/fussy eater myself I can relate a lot to this post. I think I had massive problems with the way it was cooked. I remember watching this Korean variety show that features kids and their dad’s taking care of them. Out of all the 5 different families not one was a fussy /picky eater. I was flabbergasted watching kids even less than 2 years feed themselves. This was something very intriguing for me because I’ve seen my fair share of nephews/nieces throwing a fit making mealtimes hell for their poor mommies. The Asian way of training kids is to not give them food unless they ask for it. And they involve kids in a LOT of physical activity even indoors. Even during mornings breakfast is given only 2 to 3 hours later after the kid is up. I remember a doctor friend telling me that kids will not starve themselves and us Indians constantly surround our children with food and try to feed them even when they’re not hungry, making them put off by the sight of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you dear Sara for insightful, very helpful comment 🙂
      I agree, we Indians worry too much about the kids starving themselves and feeding too often. But, now that I am pretty tired of running after Pari trying to feed her (figuratively) I have calmed down a lot. I don’t push her too much, just ensure she eats lots of fresh vegetables and fruits as snacks to not go hungry for long. I agree, good physical exercise through sports or exercise is really important and helps too 🙂

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  8. Such a fantastic and insightful post about a child’s interaction with food, My Era! In some sense, you are lucky that Pari enjoys the right stuff – fruits and veg. Consider the fact that she doesn’t like sweets is a blessing – she’s really helping you keep her healthy! Apparently what a child get used to during 2-3 years of age is what will define her food habits – and knowing this I tried my best-est to make sure my son ate healthy. Oh, they all change as they grow up – and of course they’ll eat the one thing they hate at home in abundance when they are outside – and worse, when a relative you cant stand visits…. 🙂 but that’s the fun part. Hugs! Wonderful series. I think you are a fabulous mom!

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    1. Thank you so much for that wonderfully reassuring comment that things will eventually change as my child grows up. And just like you rightly pointed out, I hope my daughter will still stick to the healthier choices of food while eating optimally, unlike now 🙂

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  9. Yes, my children are both fussy eaters! They would happily exist on a diet of bread, pasta and cheese. They will eat some fruits and vegetables, but only on their terms. Sometimes I allow myself to get wound up, and start feeling stressed that I am failing my children because they won’t eat properly. Then I remind myself that they are both healthy and happy. They are growing steadily, they are full of energy, and they are bright and intelligent. There is no problem here, really!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally agree with Catherine, looking at the issue of nutrition in a bigger picture helps make it clear that there is no major problem at hand as it appears to be.
      Thank you for sharing this very helpful insight and helping me realize that getting wound up doesn’t ever helps 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Cant imagine your plight Era. My 3.5 year old is perhaps the only kid I know who eats everything !! He loves his fruits and veggies. Is far away from junk as possible and thanks to my army – combat upbringing , till almost 6 months back actually thought yogurt was ice cream 🙂
    But when kids start going to school – the problem is they pick up the art of saying ‘ I don’t want to eat this ‘ or ‘ I don’t like so and so ‘ from other kids!
    that said , Ive seen some parents spoil their kids silly and I despise their parenting or lack of it..
    But after I read you I realized some of the kids are built a certain way.
    My parenting mantra is ‘Patience’ – it actually applies to every thing . And also — being the hard task master helps 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your child sounds so like I was as a kid. With Pari most of the times trying to hide foods inside stuffing of renaming foods doesn’t work. As far patience, I am not sure if I have any left trying to make sense of the chaos this food saga leaves me in, but yeah I try sometimes.
      More power to you CM for being a sorted parent 😀

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  11. 2 AM Writer

    What a lovely post. So informational. I was (am) a fussy eater, but after running through your list, I can see my parents did everything right to get my food habits in place! I sure am glad they did.

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    1. There is nothing wrong in being a picky eater till you are eating well and nutritious enough and do not cause a commotion on the dining table 🙂
      Thank you Maggie.

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  12. Growing up,I never gave my parents any trouble when it came to food. But my younger sister, she STILL makes our mom run after her for breakfast and lunch and dinner (and she is in her 20s) 😀 I have seen my mom plan careful diet charts, threaten, cajole and do everything in her power to make my sister eat the required amount of fruits and veggies everyday. I bet my mom and you would have a lot of notes to share on this particular topic 😀

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    1. Welcome to my blog Richa 🙂
      Oh my! Your mom surely did a lot of hard-work in keep your little sister fed well with the most nutritious foods. Though I am pretty lazy as far making notes goes. I usually keep making Pari taste as many food items I possibly can to get ingredients for my next cooking experiment on her.
      Thank you dear for sharing your personal experience. Every story helps 😀

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  13. Pingback: Parenting in the age of Mc Donald’s – The Era I lived in

  14. Pingback: Obedience – The Era I lived in

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