Getting to know the small eater
Is your child a small eater?
Let’s take a look at a group of children who do not have a problem with any given type of food. Instead, they eat very little and claim to be full after just a few bites. In reality, they may not be full but claim to be so, mostly because they are easily distracted and more interested in other things like playing.
This can be worrying for parents, as it is natural for them to get anxious about their child’s growth and well-being – especially at a stage when other children seem to be growing fast. Even though small eaters can be quite energetic, their diet quality may suffer due to inadequate nutrient intake.
Every child will feed and grow at his own pace. However, having the right number of servings in the daily diet is important as it will help your child get all the nutrients he needs. With lots of patience and some simple feeding strategies, you can help him achieve a healthy and balanced diet.
Telltale signs that your child may be a small eater
– Eats very little of his given meals
– Repeatedly signals that he is not hungry
– Plays with his food, in a bid to prolong mealtime
– Needs constant reminder that he needs another mouthful
Consequences of picky eating
– Inadequate nutrition
– Compromised growth
– Susceptibility to illness
– Lower cognitive development
– Strained parent-child relationship
Dewi Joel Chandra with 4-year-old Shane
Dewi Joel Chandra, mum of four-year-old Shane Hee shares: “My son never eats a full meal. At most, it is usually 2-4 mouthfuls before he claims he is full. Instead, he finds more interest in his toys and gets distracted quite easily. His average feeding schedule includes just 3 spoonfuls of porridge for breakfast, a few pieces of fruits for a snack, 4 spoonfuls of rice for lunch and hardly any dinner. His weight seems fine for his age, but of late, he is eating even less and I am worried about his overall nutrition. I get especially anxious when I see other children at his age eating so much more and growing faster than him!”
Dr Lim Kwang Hsien, Consultant Paediatrician at Kinder Clinic
According to Dr Lim Kwang Hsien, Consultant Paediatrician at Kinder Clinic, picky eating habits are common in children, especially in 4-year-olds who are learning to establish how much and what kind of food they like to eat. Parents need to ensure that there are no medical issues contributing to their child’s picky eating behaviour. Plot his height and and growth along his percentile charts. Observe him in different eating scenarios to see if this pattern of behaviour persists. If he is growing well and has no behavioural issues, then your goal will be to increase the amount and variety of food that he eats.
Helping your choosy eater to eat well and explore healthy food options
– Learn to understand his hunger signals and allow him to be hungry before meals by avoiding snacks in between
– Involve your child in meal selection and preparation
– Create a family table for meal times, and act as role models
– Offer an appropriate portion for him with healthy food that he likes
– Avoid distractions while eating, like TV and toys
– Set an appropriate duration for him to finish his food
Parents should seek medical advice if their child’s eating habit does not improve, or if he is not growing well.
For more tips on teaching your child healthy eating habits, go to www.pickyeating.com.sg.
The many faces of picky eaters series:
Part 1: The slow eater
Part 2: The junk food lover
Part 3: The choosy eater