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Common child nutrition myths that parents need to ignore

SUNDAY MAGAZINE
By Faith Kariuki Biongo | October 6th 2019

Eating is supposed to be an enjoyable experience but for many parents and children this can be the worst time of the day. Feeding children can be one of the most enjoyable or the most difficult task parents undergo. It can evoke emotions that leave parents feeling hopeless and discouraged as they worry about the health and nutrition of their children.

Here are three common practices that parents should do away with during mealtimes.

Myth # 1: Children should eat everything they are served

Many times parents and caregivers forcefully feed children even when not hungry or when they don’t want to eat some particular foods. Parents expect children to like and eat everything they are served. When this does not happen, children are often threatened, punished or forced to eat what they don’t want.  If a child gets into trouble for not eating a particular food like vegetable, they start associating that food with getting in trouble.  As they grow older they may shy away from such a food because they give them unhappy memories.

Myth # 2: Children are not full until they clear their plate

Chubby children are often thought of as being prettier and healthier. Due to this perception children are often served portions that can satisfy adults. Pressure is also put on the children to finish the food through various coercion methods like withdrawal of favours, threats, punishment or denial of play time. Your child is very capable of communicating when they are full. Listen to them. Forcing your child to clear their plate even when they are full makes them grow up not knowing when to stop eating which increases their risk for obesity and other non-communicable diseases. Big doesn’t always equal healthy

Myth # 3:  Refined snacks are okay as long as my child has eaten a balanced meal

Parents often ensure that their children’s diet is quite healthy during the main meals but get more lenient with snacks. Most snacks given at home or carried to school like crisps, cookies, packet juices and corn puffs are usually highly processed.  Children can get addicted to the chemicals used to process such snacks. Artificial flavors, sweeteners, preservatives and other additives may create a craving that can only be satisfied by consuming more of a particular food. If such a food is made available, the child will definitely choose it over a healthier option. Foods that may not have such chemicals will often be rejected since they don’t trigger the same stimulatory responses to satisfy the craving.

Myth #4:  My eating habits don’t affect how my child feeds

Young children learn through observation and emulation. They pick and copy habits they observe in those they see as authority figures especially parents. They see what their parents do as a blue print of how things should be done. Children often model the eating habits of their parents or caregivers. If you area picky eater, your child is more likely to pick the same habit.

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