If you’re guilty of these feeding mistakes, here are some alternative solutions to instil healthier eating habits in your child.
WORDS NURULHUDA SUHAIMI
Finding it tough to cultivate healthy eating habits? Don’t make these mistakes!
Using Food as a Reward
Bribing children with their favourite foods to get them to eat their fruits and vegetables is a time-honoured tradition in the parenting world.
While offering your child a reward might seem worth it if it gets him to eat
healthier foods, this can create unhealthy eating habits in your child.
Using certain foods, such as desserts, as a reward teaches your child to associate these foods with specific emotions – your child feels forced and unhappy when eating his greens but feels happy when it comes to sweet foods. This can lead to an emotional eating habit that can last all the way through adulthood.
Furthermore, using sweet snacks as a reward sends your child the message that healthy foods are naturally less desirable and enjoyable. Eventually, your child will develop a preference for sweet snacks over healthier alternatives.
Instead of offering rewards, involve your child in his food choices. “Encourage your kid’s creativity by letting them experiment using different ingredients to create yummy concoctions, such as fruit salad, sandwiches and smoothies. You might be surprised that kids are more likely to finish what they have cooked, even if the food isn’t something they usually like. Research has shown that involving children in food preparation could help them to develop healthy eating habits and increase vegetable consumption,” explains by Lee Sze Mien, dietitian at Mount Elizabeth Hospital.
You’ve cooked dinner for the whole family, but you know your child might not enjoy the food, so you prepare a separate meal for him. This is known as short-order cooking.
This may seem harmless – the important thing is your child eats, right? – but short-order cooking can make your child become fussier with what he’s eating. If he doesn’t want to eat what the rest of the family is eating, he knows he can ask you to make him something else.
You can involve your child here too, such as bringing him to shop for groceries. “Involving your kids in grocery shopping can help to spark an interest in what they are eating. Show them some fresh ingredients and discuss with them about different tastes and textures. That should get kids excited about trying something new!” says Lee.
“A simple shopping trip gives your child the opportunity to explore and learn about the fascinating world of food together,” she adds.
Fussing Over Cleanliness
It’s impossible to expect your child to keep everything as clean as possible while he’s eating, and you shouldn’t keep trying to keep it clean either. During the early years of a child’s life, everything is an opportunity for exploration, even food.
Allow your child to touch his food, smear it all over his highchair table,
squish it, whatever it may be. You might think this promotes messy eating,
but this is exactly what your child’s development can benefit from.
While it’s hard to keep mealtimes absolutely clean, there are ways to lessen the mess. You can have your child wear a silicone bib with a deep pocket to catch spilt food. To minimise spillage, serve your child’s food in plates or bowls with a suction base so they will stick to the tabletop.