It can be tricky knowing how much food your child needs, too little and will they get enough calories to grow and develop, too many and are you starting a journey to obesity?
Yvonne Bishop-Weston, Clinical Nutritional Therapist here gives a quick guide on how much children need to eat.
Quality is as important as quantity
Attitudes to food are shaped not only by the flavour, but by many other factors. How you introduce foods to your children may influence how they feel about food so the whole experience needs to be positive. Be a great food role model by showing how you enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods.
Look at the nutrient density of food; it can be easy to fill up your children on empty calories which lack essential vitamins and minerals. At snack times, go for houmous and veg sticks, wholegrain crackers or apple slices rather than biscuits and sugary snacks.
How much, how often
From the start of weaning, children’s calories need to steadily increase as they age, grow and become more physically active. However, children’s stomach sizes are small in relation to their need for calories so the younger they are, the more often they need to eat in relation to their size.
They can have the full fat versions of foods such as milk and yogurts until the age of four, and other high calorie foods which also bring vital nutrients such as avocado, houmous, and coconut milk in soups and stews are ideal.
Eat as many main meals at the table as possible and encourage your child to stop and eat their snacks when they are out to encourage mindful eating. Avoid distractions such as TV with meals as this can lead to eating without realising and an overeating habit.
Through the ages
If your toddler becomes picky with their food, consistently offer foods they are used to as the main part of their meals, but also encourage variety. You may also want the back up of a daily multivitamin or a follow on milk, which includes a good variety of nutrients. Goats’ milk follow on formula, such as Kabrita, may be easier to digest due to the naturally easy to digest proteins and fats in goats’ as opposed to cows’ milk. It also and has added vitamins, minerals and omega 3 fats.
Give toddlers 20-30 minutes to eat their food and then take the food away and let them leave the table if they wish. Don’t force your toddler to eat if they are not hungry or keep encouraging them to eat more when they are full.
As their stomach size grows and they can last longer between meals you can be more confident in not offering alternatives when children refuse food they usually like. Leaving them waiting until the next meal. Always offer water to ensure your child is properly hydrated and seek the advice from your GP if your child is consistently not eating enough. It can help to look at what your child eats over a week rather than at each meal.
If your child is a picky eater also avoid filling up on fluids before meals, especially sweet drinks which can trick the child into feeling full. Give drinks between and after meals rather than before and during.
Kabrita is available at Acado, Boots online and health stores across the country.
Words by: Yvonne Bishop-Weston BSc Dip ION mBANT CHNC www.optimumnutritionists.com