To feed the child correctly is a kind of measure of our parental competence, and a child’s poor appetite threatens this competence. It is urgent to do something if the child eats badly, because it seems to us that children need to “shove” food at all costs, even against common sense (after all, there are years of shortages, social upheavals, wars, famine.) Does it need a child?
About our children’s appetite and food manipulations tells our expert, pediatric nutritiologist Elena Motova.
Food without appetite
Let us understand and remember that force-feeding is completely unacceptable.
The child’s body is a self-regulating system, and if a child does not want to eat at a particular time, this does not mean that he has a bad appetite: it is when the feeling of hunger appears that the child’s body is ready to eat, digest, turn into building material for its growth and development.
Food without appetite, and under duress (the time has come, and if you don’t eat right now, faint and get sick), it simply will not be assimilated properly and will bring nothing but harm.
If the child does not want to eat, a reasonable parent will send him an appetite for fattening before afternoon tea, dinner, or the next family meal.
Nothing terrible during this time will happen to him, we are so arranged that we can go without food for quite some time, however, next time the baby will eat with pleasure and without additional parental efforts.
After the first year of life, when a child actively grows and almost always pleases parents with an abundant appetite, other times come when growth slows down, and the food dominant is replaced by knowledge of the world and of oneself.
Therefore, food becomes less important, and the baby is distracted while eating, rejects some foods, eats little and selectively.
Very often, this natural stage of the child’s development grieves the parents, they are worried about the question: “What if the child eats badly?”
And start persuasion.
Even those of us who will never feed a child against his will, ask to eat a spoon for dad, mom or grandmother, distract and entertain, satisfy all requirements and whims, just to feed at any cost.
The consequences of this “they wanted to do better, but it turned out as always” — aggravation of problems with appetite and nutrition as they grow up.
Children are great psychologists, and an understanding of how important their food is for mom and dad gives a huge scope for manipulation.
The child agrees to eat only two or three of his favorite products, eats only under the TV or sitting on the shoulders of his father when he is fed with a spoon.
Every breakfast, lunch or dinner turns into a conflict, and a child eats a new toy for eating porridge or soup.
I do not exaggerate at all, all of the above are real cases from my pediatric practice.
How is a child’s appetite related to energy?
A modern preschooler is a child of a big city, who walks only two hours in kindergarten, and devotes all the rest of the time to more peaceful activities. A schoolboy who, behind lessons, computers, electives and circles, has completely forgotten what movement is.
Are you surprised that such a healthy child has a bad appetite?
Food replenishes the energy spent by a person; if a child or an adult leads a sedentary life, his energy costs are minimal.
Poor appetite in a child and you want him to eat better?
Instead of a Sunday hike in a fast food cafe, you should go to the park to ride bicycles, and if you limit the time at the computer and TV, you will be able to run around in the yard or go to the countryside.
You will be surprised when, after a walk in the woods or swimming in the lake, or just at a picnic, your little one will eat everything you offer him.
WHO strongly recommends that children between the ages of five and seventeen devote at least one hour per day to “moderate-to-high-intensity physical activity,” and it is better if this time is longer.
An active lifestyle, hiking, outdoor games, physical education at home and at school — this is necessary if you want a healthy child with a good appetite.
Another prerequisite — the movement should bring joy!
Eating problem in children
The trouble of modern children (and adults) is that they absolutely do not know what the feeling of hunger is.
The natural, natural mechanism of hunger-saturation replaced food on duty, without appetite.
And it’s scary, because these extremely complex processes are regulated by both hormones of internal organs (stomach, intestines, adipose tissue, pancreas) and brain structures, the hypothalamus plays a leading role in controlling eating behavior.
What do you think happens when, instead of the hypothalamus and hormones, the amount of food eaten is constantly regulated by someone else’s desire?
The system breaks down, and sometimes breaks.
The energy balance, which is the balance between the energy that comes from food and that spent on vital activity, is disturbed.
How to understand if there is little or a lot of baby?
The most frequent question to the doctor is whether the child gets enough food. It is strange to think that if there is an abundance of food, someone may be undernourished, the opposite is more likely.
The parents whom I asked to keep a food diary, that is, to write down everything that a child eats at least a week during the day, were very surprised when we analyzed the results together. In most cases, it turned out that their boy or girl was eating quite quantitatively, but not always qualitatively. In fact, the amount of food that a child eats may increase very slightly from one to three years.
Children are not cars that require more or less the same amount of gas per kilometer.
Today, your baby can eat very little, but it will catch up tomorrow or next week.
How to stop worrying about food?
If you want problems with baby food not to leave you for a long time, I advise you to worry as much as possible about the fact that the child is not eating well.
Every hour, ask the child if he wants to eat, spend all his free time in the kitchen, inventing new mouthwatering dishes for him, discuss the appetite / weight / eating habits of the child with everyone who listens with tragic intonations.
But seriously, it is not necessary to be a nutritionist or pediatrician to get rid of nutritional problems once and for all, but it is absolutely necessary to remain calm, have patience and common sense.
A rolling healthy child sometimes has periods when growth slows down, the intensity of metabolic processes decreases, therefore he eats little or rarely. The appetite is affected by hormones, heredity, even the season, and we can’t do anything with them.
We just accept as a fact that sometimes the child refuses to eat and this is completely normal.