Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1235, (26 February - 4 March 2015)
Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Issue 1235, (26 February - 4 March 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Nutritional battles in the home

Can simple recipes tame rebellious kids, asks Mai Samih 

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Many mothers complain about children who never seem to eat. Many households are battlegrounds between a mother and her children in which a stressed-out mother runs after her children with plates of food and the children scream in horror, not wanting to eat it. But some simple advice can help resolve such problems.

According to Mohamed Yazid, a nutritionist, there are various reasons why a child might shun food. “The first reason is hereditary, such as if one of his parents or relatives does not eat and acts as a model for the child. The second is that he has an illness in his stomach, meaning that a doctor should examine the child to find the origin of the problem.”

Yazid says that children’s nutritional needs change as they grow up. “From the age of two a child completes his milk-feeding period and starts to eat normally. Broadly speaking, there are three phases in a child’s eating habits: two to five; five to 12; and 12 to adolescence.”

“During the first stage, the child starts to be acquainted with food, and at this stage it is advisable to give him soft foods, but not everything at once. For example, a child might begin with bits of chicken, then vegetables like potatoes or zucchini.” Parents should give their children of this age soft food, preferably crushed with a fork. If there is a vegetable the child does not like, a parent should not pressure the child to eat it. Instead, he should wait and offer this type of food at intervals when there is a better chance that the child may accept it.

“In the next stage of five to 12 years a child begins to be a grown-up and starts to form a personality,” Yazid says. “The most important thing is for a parent to make sure that the child has a good breakfast, which should include a cup of milk with a spoonful of honey in it as this gives him the calcium and iron he needs. A breakfast should range from 1,500 calories for ordinary children to 2,500 calories for kids who are very active and do a lot of sports.”

“The breakfast should be composed of a boiled egg or a plate of fava beans or a cheese sandwich. A parent should give his child a few snacks throughout the day that should include fruit and vegetables such as carrots cut in fancy ways like in the shape of cartoon characters, for example” because kids are attracted to different shapes and colours. “Parents should not offer their children nuts at this age as they may not know how to chew them and may end up swallowing them instead which could cause a lot of problems.”

 At this age a child may rebel if his parents force him to finish his meals as parents are sometimes not aware that a child’s stomach may be smaller than the quantities they want him to eat. The most important thing is that parents give their children healthy food since it is the quality of the food that counts and not the quantity. For example, parents should not fill a child’s stomach with carbohydrates but instead should give him lots of vegetables.

“I give my children the vegetables they need at the beginning of the meal so they eat them to build their muscles. Girls should also be given attention, and their meals should be full of iron so they do not get anaemia at puberty. This is found in meat, especially in kidneys, as well as in fruit like apples,” Yazid says.

“Parents should give children high-calorie food such as a cup of fresh milk with a spoonful of powdered milk in it. This allows the children to benefit from a cup of milk twice, as they are drinking double the amount of calcium and protein in one cup. Parents could also give children nuts by sprinkling some on their food, like on their favourite puddings for example.”

Yazid advises parents to be cautious with food supplements. “Some parents use growth formula, for example, as a food supplement which can be beneficial as it contains proteins and vitamins. But appetising supplements only make your children eat in large quantities without making them eat more healthily,” meaning that the children could suffer from obesity or anaemia. “The earlier a child wakes up to eat breakfast the better as the body makes use of the vitamins and nutrients in a meal in the early morning better than later in the day,” Yazid comments.

Children tend to eat with their eyes, Yazid says, so the better a dish looks the more they will eat it. If parents want their children to eat healthy food they should arrange it in a nice way or put attractive colours in it. “I was once at an international school and I demonstrated to parents how to prepare high-calorie snacks for their children by simply cutting carrots into cubes and putting them in a coloured box. This makes an attractive and healthy snack. On the same day, I asked parents to give vegetables to their children as a snack, and the children actually ate them after they were cut into nice shapes.” In general, vegetables are not popular among kids, who prefer the sweet taste of fruit.  

Yazid has some tips for mothers who want to trick their children into eating more healthily. “It is better for mothers to make juice out of their children’s favourite fruit and sweeten it with honey rather than buying juice with additives or preservatives that could harm children. If a child does not eat at all, a mother could cut a deal with the child by allowing him to eat in front of the TV only if he finishes his meal.”

“Another idea to make children eat fruit is to cover it with chocolate like in a banana dessert. To give a child the Vitamin C he needs a parent could try adding a squeeze of lemon to a guava and some spoonfuls of honey to make a sweet-tasting and healthy dessert. You could also cover a strawberry with honey or caramel after putting a small stick in it to make it look like a lollipop.”

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