If you’re like me then you’re searching for ways to get good nutritious food in your kids’ belly but also finding ways to give them enough calories. Remember that as parents you are responsible for what is offered and where and when it is presented. You are also responsible for providing a safe and enjoyable environment during meal times.
Children on the other hand are responsible for deciding how much food they will eat and whether they will eat at all. Make sure you:
1. Offer variety of nutritious foods.
2. Offer foods that are safe.
3. Offer serving sizes that are appropriate.
4. Eat meals at the table.
5. Eat at regular times.
6. Serve as good role models when choosing foods to eat.
7. Don’t pressure or bribe the child to eat.
8. Avoid arguing or negative behaviors during meals.
Children should be eating at least three meals a day with two snacks. I’ve had parents think their child was “always eating” but when you broke it down they weren’t eating a lot of calories. They were snacking on rice cakes and grapes. I had one mom say that she thought carbohydrates were bad for her child and tried to limit them. Contrary to the adult diet kids actually need a lot of carbohydrates. Because kids are little and not eating a lot they need to have nutrient dense foods as well as energy dense foods.
A food is nutrient dense if the vitamin and mineral content is more than its energy or calorie content such as lean meats, beans, oranges, carrots, broccoli, whole-wheat bread, and whole-grain breakfast cereals. Energy dense foods contribute more calories than they do nutrients such as chips, sodas, cookies and ice cream. Remember to balance healthy nutrient dense foods with energy dense foods.
Feeding children particularly an underweight child can be stressful if you micromanage their meals. I know it’s tempting to chase them around the house with a forkful of food. But don’t. Try instead to:
1. Give them small meals that have both nutrient dense and energy dense foods and drinks.
2. Add fats to food such as butter on potatoes and toast, mayo and cheese on sandwiches.
3. Offer whole fat products, such as milk, cottage cheese, creamed soups, pudding and yogurt.
4. Add calories to foods such as fruit in heavy syrup and vegetable with cheese sauce.
Don’t forget to visit your pediatrician for a thorough exam.