Has the dining table become your daily battleground? Dealing with young picky eaters isn’t easy. To get kids to eat a well-balanced home-cooked meal, happily, we unintentionally hone their negotiation skills. When we provide any distractions at mealtimes, such as videos, toys, or even books, we encourage them to multitask while eating. 

“Food is a joy and a blessing, so let’s take the stress out of it! When the joy goes out of eating – nutrition suffers,” says Ajita Gopal Seethepalli, Child Sleep and Food Habits Consultant. 

We know what to feed our children but often struggle with finding the correct way to do so. With the Eat Right Program, Ajita focuses on creating healthy eating habits and, more importantly, a positive association with food and mealtimes. The aim is to transform picky eaters into happy eaters.

When Ajita interacted with Kidskintha, she highlighted how sleep and food are deeply correlated. In this interview, she uncovers the common mistakes made by new parents and how simple adjustments can tailor children’s outlook of mealtimes. In conversation with Ajita…

Hello Ajita! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. You are an advocate for knowing that sleep-food correlation is important for the holistic development of infants and toddlers. Would you please elaborate on that?

Sleep and food are the basic physical needs of a child. The two are deeply correlated. Often, sleep troubles trigger food troubles and rarely the other way around. It is especially true with children above eight or nine months of age. Excess feeds in the night take away the interest in food during the day, which creates hunger in the night and unnecessary wake-ups and poor sleep, leading to many problems, namely, poor eating habits, picky eaters, poor behavior, short attention span, and focus, etc. So it’s essential to get the basics right. 

Also Read: Kiddilicious Recipes for Kids: This Week – Mango Coconut Bites!!!

How to avoid having a picky eater child?

Kids should have healthy home-cooked meals without coercion or distraction. The child should eat how much he likes, and depending on his age; he can eat independently or with an adult assisting him. The parent’s role is to decide what food to give the child and when to offer it. Trouble arises when children decide what food is going to be cooked and when it will be offered, and parents decide how much the child will eat and or even worse, force-feed the child with an array of distractions.

Children’s nutrition is paramount. How to ensure the child gets the required nutrients?

When children eat everyday home-cooked meals made for the entire family, they tend to take in all the required nutrients. This includes a balanced diet rich in vegetables, grains, fruits, dairy, and, let’s not forget – water. A child should be exposed to all kinds of flavors and textures, and not just what he likes. We must also remember that babies need a lot of milk in the first year of life, which keeps reducing as they grow up. So keeping the right food milk ratio according to age is also essential.

What causes picky eating in infants and toddlers? What are the ways to deal with picky eaters?

Parents need to respect the child’s understanding of his body. It isn’t your job as a parent to ensure he finishes every grain on his plate. Your job is to offer healthy food options all the time, and you have to provide it with the understanding that your child knows how hungry he is.   

Children’s hunger varies according to the level of growth that is taking place in their bodies. You have to respect your child’s desire to eat and not force or entice him to do so. 

If your child has a low appetite it could be because of various reasons. So trust your child and don’t create bad habits. Offer healthy food at the right intervals. Avoid force-feeding or distracted feeding for the child. 

Please share your thoughts on Baby Led Weaning (BLW)

When I started the Eat Right Program, the idea was to promote joy in eating, which is missing in fussy and picky eaters. They have a negative association with food. I generally prefer a slightly modified version of BLW. I believe children should decide how much they want to eat. As the child’s motor skills develop, allow him to pick up food and learn to self-feed. It is a joyful process for the child as well. The aim is to help the child develop healthy eating habits and a healthy food association. It is not about eating a certain quantity of food every day.  

Also Read: This Week in Kiddilicious Recipes For Kids: Zu-Chilla, a Chilla with a Twist!

What is the ideal gap between a meal and night sleep?

It is best to have at least an hour’s gap, if not more, between a meal and sleep time.

What ages do you work with?

In the Eat Right Program, I work with children from 15 months and up to seven years of age. 

Also Read: Ajita Gopal Seethepalli: Bringing Back Joyful Parenting with Her Sleep Training Superpowers

Is your child a fussy eater? Want to know how to deal with a picky eater child? Get details on the Eat right Program packages at www.KidsCenter.in

What do you if your child is a picky eater? You definitely don’t need a dietician’s guide to picky eaters! Here are our tips to help: Write to Ajita on [email protected] or message Ajita on social media, Instagram & Facebook.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels; Naomi Shi from Pexels; Vanessa Loring from Pexels