Children who develop healthy eating habits early in life will probably continue into these adult years. Healthy eating habits can reduce the risk of chronic diseases in adulthood such as heart disease, cancers, diabetes and osteoporosis and risk of some common health problems in childhood such as dental caries, overweight and obesity. Children aged 5-12 years have already formed their likes and dislikes regarding food, but their food choice can be influenced by family, friends, and the media (especially TV). School-aged children are more open to experimenting and trying new foods than their younger siblings.
Eating pattern of a child can be a matter of concern for parents, but remember that this is usually a normal phase in the child’s development. Correct diagnosis of eating problem in children can be difficult. Eating as a problem in children has been recognized only for about past 20 years.
Common feeding problems among school aged children are
Selective eating or food fad: This is commonly observed in children. Some children may accept only a limited number of food items and reject all others. At times your child may behave so because of too much urging to eat by you or your child may be tired of the eating the same food everyday. A food jag is probably a way by which the child tries to test his or her independence. It can be annoying for parents, but food jags are rarely a reason for worry.
Restrictive eating or poor appetite: Some children may eat less than they should. These children probably eat the normal range of food that should be consumed by them but in lesser amount than required for their age. Due to this they are often thin and short for their age, but are otherwise healthy and active. These children are probably programmed to eat less and may have a family history of the same pattern of food intake. If your child is active and healthy it should be a reason for worry.
Food phobia: Some children can be very resistant to eating and drinking. This can be major cause of concern for the parents. They often avoid foods with certain textures because of their fear of swallowing, choking, gagging, becoming sick or new foods. Refusal to eat and drink can make mealtimes turn into a battleground. However most children with food phobia are healthy and seem to grow and develop as their food and drink intake provides them with enough calories and nutrients.
Food refusal: Food refusal is a common complaint of pre-school children, however it can persist in slightly older children as well. These children have an inconsistent refusal of food---they eat foods they like without any fuss or problem and may refuse certain food or food in certain environment such as with particular people, at school or at home.
They are usually healthy and have normal growth and development. Food refusal is usually not a reason for worry.
Inappropriate texture of food for age: Some children may refuse to eat solid foods. They may spit the food, gag on it or may completely refuse to eat solids and even finger foods. They are usually healthy and have normal height, weight, growth and development. This problem is rarely a reason for worry but can make eating difficult in certain place like the school.
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