How to Build Healthy Eating Habits in Children?

The child has passed the age of 1 and can now eat many foods. In this process, there will also be differences in the diet due to the fact that his energetic body directs him and his interest in everything around him.

In this article, we talked about what can be done for the development of healthy eating behavior in children.

What are the nutritional behaviors of children over 1 year old?

A 1-2 year old child usually eats slowly and gets distracted very quickly. That’s why you need to give him enough time to feed. During this period, you may see changes in your child’s diet. While the child eats one meal very well, he may not even touch the other meal. This is because his appetite is limited.

It may be difficult for you to adapt to the development and change your child will experience in the first two years. Because after the birth, the baby who sucks constantly, swallows the food given to his mouth immediately and gains weight quickly turns into someone who refuses to eat, does not stand still, acts selectively and whose weight gain slows down.

But fear not, because this is part of your development! It is normal for the meal time to turn into a game and sometimes a torture for your child. What you have to do is stay calm and consciously intervene in the situation.

You can’t influence a child’s capacity and appetite, but you can influence their food choices in their early years. It’s your job to offer him healthy choices. That’s why you should educate yourself about healthy eating.

Your habits are important in the development of your child’s sense of taste. Your child will not eat a meal that you squint. There is a high probability of developing a prejudice against a food that he has never tasted. Experts say that a food that is offered frequently is more easily accepted.

From this point of view, it is also important to eat as a family. If you eat a food with pleasure, your child will also want to participate in this pleasure. Because the child learns what he sees. Significant food preference behavior develops after 2 or 3 years of age.

Development of feeding skills after 12 months

We can examine these features in a table.

1 yearHe uses his glass with help. He can hold the spoon but cannot bring it to his mouth without spilling it. She eats with her hands, she needs a highchair.
18 monthsUses glasses unaided. It can hold the spoon with confidence. She needs a highchair.
2 yearsChews the food well, uses the spoon well. It can drink with a straw, less food spills. She needs a highchair.
3 years oldCuts soft food with a knife. Uses fingers, spoons, forks, glasses. It feeds itself with help, it spills much less food. He may sit at the table, but his interests are in different fields.

Factors forming the child’s feeding behavior

You should consider these 6 elements when starting to introduce healthy eating habits to your child:

  • You should adapt your diet according to your child’s motor development, that is, behaviors such as spoon holding and biting skills.
  • You should encourage your child to eat and help him feed himself.
  • You should feed your child a balanced diet, but not force it.
  • You should adjust the feeding time according to your child’s mental state. If you try to give food at a time when she is very unhappy or upset, you may encounter a major backlash.
  • You should not change your child’s feeding times. You should feed at the same time every day and make sure that there are no distracting factors in the environment.
  • You should not compare your child with other children.

Do you know the 3W1K rule?

The 3W1K rule is of great importance in child nutrition. prof. Dr. Gülbin Gökçay explains this rule as follows:

“3N1K rule is: Meal of WHEN it would be, WHERE would beat and dining WHAT do you determine whether you beat. The child determines HOW MUCH he will eat at the meal .”

This rule is the cornerstone of proper and balanced nutrition. If you build your child’s diet by adhering to this rule, you can minimize the anxiety you will experience while feeding.

Other recommendations for the development of your child’s healthy diet

  • You can use interesting and colorful products, whether the containers in which your child eats are separate.
  • When the child takes a break from eating, wait a while, then give food again to ensure that he is fully satisfied.
  • Offer foods to your child in different tastes, textures, colors and varieties.
  • Eat with him, let him eat himself, but help him eat right.
  • Make sure she can sit comfortably at the table. Get an appropriately sized chair and cutlery that he can use comfortably.
  • Give him enough time to finish his plate. Take your time, but try to keep your submission time from exceeding half an hour. When the time is near, warn him with cute words.
  • Prepare your main and snacks well, make sure that there is a gap of at least 2 hours before the main meal.
  • If your child is picky, offer a mix of foods.
  • Prevent your child from getting too hungry. Being hungry for a long time causes him to become angry.
  • Do not try to feed your child when he is sleepy.
  • Don’t force your child. Let him eat his food in a stress-free, relaxed atmosphere. In this way, you can turn mealtime into entertainment. 
  • Chat with him at the dinner table, but don’t get distracted.
  • Try not to give empty foods before or after a meal. 
  • Do not try to distract with devices such as television, telephone, computer.
  • Don’t dehydrate your child, but don’t give a lot of water before or during meals.

So, is your child lacking in appetite?

As we mentioned above, the child will be indifferent to food between the ages of 1-3. In this case, “My child has no appetite!” You don’t need to think. We can talk about the differences between children who really have no appetite and those who eat little:

  • True anorexia usually develops with a disease (such as urinary tract infection, anemia due to iron deficiency ). An unreal anorexia is when the child eats as much as he or she needs, but this is called anorexia by the parents.
  • Weight gain and development of children with no appetite may slow down, but weight gain and development of children who eat less progress in their normal course.
  • The sleep pattern of the child with no appetite is also problematic. When the sleep problem improves, nutrition can also improve. A child who eats little does not have sleep problems.
  • Anorexia is more common in children who are forced to eat and are fed with pressure.

If your child does not have these symptoms, there is no reason to think that he has an appetite! From this situation, you should understand that your child has shaped his diet according to the needs of his body. If the child shows these signs of loss of appetite, it is useful to consult a doctor.

How should you organize your child’s feeding schedule?

We have mentioned below the information given by Expert Dietitian Nesrin Eriş on this subject:

  • You should create a balanced nutrition plan in terms of protein, carbohydrates and fats, rich in vitamins and minerals, without ignoring the foods that your child likes and prefers.
  • You should give your child eggs for breakfast, one serving of meat, one serving of vegetables and three servings of fruit a day. 
  • You should definitely give carbohydrates such as rice or pasta not alone, but with vegetables or meat.
  • You can drink 1 glass of milk at bedtime. If you have a food allergy, we recommend that you skip this item. 
  • If he doesn’t like vegetables, you can offer these dishes to him when he is very hungry.
  • You can give foods such as carrots and cucumbers raw to get used to the vegetable.

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