You’ve probably heard this before: A child will eat only as much as a child will eat. But how many times have you kept it in mind while planning meals or feeding your child? Do you even know how much food should you feed your child?
Doctors and child nutrition experts we spoke to have given some important pointers listed below along with some handy tips from Klay parents:
1. A baby’s empty stomach is only as big as the baby’s fist: An anatomical fact that applies even to adults. When full, the stomach becomes as big as an open fist. So think twice about how much food a child can eat in one meal. The general rule, says a parent of two, is one-fourth of what the parent eats in a meal.
2. No baby will starve him or herself: Majority of children will eat just the right amount they need. In fact, children develop the ability to regulate their food as they grow up, so avoid feeding them when they’re not hungry and refusing to eat. Forcing them to eat will lead to children eating when they’re not hungry — and we all know very well that’s a road we don’t want them to take into adulthood!
3. Feeding patterns change on a daily basis: And are affected by the goings-on around children. A child may eat less when he or she is ill or teething. Children eat more while going through a growth spurt and less when they are out of it. The best way to measure nutrition and food intake is on an average — on a weekly basis. Also, eating large quantities does not necessarily equate to adequate nutrition.
4. Food requirement changes with age: After the first year, growth slows down by 30% — so does appetite. Do not get your child into the habit of ‘eating just one more bite’ – your child is developing the ability to self-regulate and you should appreciate that. Also, once they start walking, toddlers are not interested to sit down and eat and want to play instead. This is why it is important to have healthy, nutritious snacks at hand, instead of expecting to children to large quantities of food in one meal.
5. Have a schedule for meals: Toddlers need to eat every two to three hours. You should stick to this schedule and not offer anything else in between – even milk. Children who are always nibbling will never really feel hungry and ask for a meal.
Offer miniature version of meals to children and keep bite-sized, nutritious snacks – such as veggie salad sticks, fruits, paneer, homemade whole grain biscuits – at hand.
The key is packing nutrition in a small quantity. After all, if children are good things that come in small packages – so should their meals!