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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Physician Lim Sock Ling and Dr Angelica L Dumapit on July 22, 2022

Healthy Eating Tips For Children

Healthy eating is essential for your child's growth and development. It also makes them healthier as an adult. Learn how to get your picky eater to indulge in something other than pizza or chicken nuggets.

Picky eater min scaled

Healthy eating isn’t something that comes naturally for many children. They need to be taught how to make good choices.

Doing so can help your child grow properly and avoid nutritional deficiencies. It also reduces their risk of obesity as an adult.

However, we realize this is easier said than done. In this healthy eating guide for picky eaters, we’ll show parents how to encourage children to eat right.

Why Do Children Resist Healthy Eating?

Encourage your child to eat foods other than their favorites to help them meet their nutritional requirements.

Fussy eating refers to an unwillingness to eat food that has an unfamiliar color, shape, size, or texture. Food neophobia is also common among children. It describes a child’s refusal to try new food. These two disorders are associated with anxiety and feelings of disgust.

Fussy eating is dangerous because it can increase a child’s risk of fiber, folate, and vitamin C and E deficiencies. These can lead to digestive problems and a weaker immune response. Here are some other reasons why your child might be refusing healthy food.

Parenting style 

Parents who are strict about the type of food a child cannot eat may prompt their children to become picky eaters. For instance, a child can become fussy if they’re forced to eat healthy food or finish high-calorie foods when they’re already full. 

Delayed introduction to semi-solid foods 

Research shows that stalling the introduction of semi-solid foods to a child can contribute to picky eating habits.

Specifically, one study focused on babies who weren’t fed lumpy foods until ten months or older. It found that one in five babies from this focus group were fussy eaters by the time they were 15 months old.

In addition, these babies were also twice as likely to have set food preferences and insisted on only eating pureed food even after turning one.

Illness 

A child that contracts a cold or develops gastroenteritis – an inflammation of the intestinal lining due to virus, bacteria, or parasites – can be vulnerable to poor appetite and indigestion.

Generally, parents need not worry if a child resumes their daily activities after recovering from illness.

However, in some cases, a child’s condition may worsen. This can result in weight loss, a foul mood, or reluctance to participate in activities.

Healthy Eating In Children, According To TCM

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a child may experience a lack of appetite or indigestion if they experience Liver Qi Stagnation that arises due to stress, Liver Fire due to anger, or Deficiencies of the Spleen and Stomach. 

Children don’t know how to practice self-control when eating. They also tend to be picky eaters who only eat snacks or sweets before and after meals.

These eating habits will impair the ability of the Spleen and Stomach to transport and transform substances. Hence, pairing an inconducive eating environment and unhealthy habits can make a child susceptible to problems like poor appetite and indigestion. 

There are several signs a picky eater may show that warrant further evaluation, such as:  

  • Vomiting 
  • Atopic conditions like eczema  
  • Difficult or painful swallowing 
  • Feeding that’s interrupted by crying 
  • Developmental anomalies like autism, prematurity, and congenital abnormalities 

How To Encourage Healthy Eating In Children

Taking preventive steps before a child turns two is recommended. This is because children between the ages of four to nine will find it harder to change their behavior toward food consumption.

Make healthy eating fun

Allow your child to help with the meal-making process to show them that eating healthy can be fun.

Preparing food in different shapes can be an interesting way to enhance a child’s appetite. If they aren’t particularly fond of certain kinds of food, it’s not necessary for parents to prepare alternative meals.

Instead, take comfort in knowing that they’re still likely to eat them during their next mealtime, or when they’re hungry. 

Ultimately, it’s vital that parents include foods from these groups to ensure their children consume a healthy diet daily. These include:  

  • Carbohydrate-rich foods like bread, noodles, rice, oats, and grains 
  • Fruits and vegetables 
  • High protein foods like red meat, eggs, tofu, and beans 
  • Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese 

Support their diet with supplements 

A clinical physician may recommend several health supplements to boost your child’s intake of certain nutrients. Multivitamins, prebiotics, and probiotics are beneficial for improving gut health.

A TCM practitioner, on the other hand, can propose classical formulas like Si Jun Zi soup or Si Shen powder to promote Spleen and Stomach function.

Consequently, a healthy digestive system can also strengthen a child’s immune system. Parents can opt to give children a juice blend with multiple fruits like oranges and berries to build immunity. 

“Chinese yam (Shan Yao) and malt (Mai Ya) are commonly prescribed to help strengthen a child’s digestive system. The latter is also good for promoting better digestion and Qi (vital energy) circulation,” advises TCM Physician Lim Sock Ling. 

Try pediatric tuina  

Known as an external form of therapy, pediatric tuina involves using various techniques to activate pressure points. It’s widely applicable to many illnesses and highly effective in dealing with respiratory and digestive disorders. You can administer this massage type on your children once you master the basics.

It’s also worth noting that tuina starts from the pressure points on the upper limbs before moving to the head, face, body, and lower limbs. The application of talcum powder and baby oil on the pressure points can also help ensure you don’t scrape your child’s skin. 

The main pressure points and areas that you can stimulate are: 

  • The palm 
  • Distal Palmar Crease (Zhang Yuan Duan Zhe Hen
  • Celestial Pivot (Tian Shu ST 25
  • Zu San Li (Rou Zu San Li ST 36)
  • Thenar (Rou Ban Men)
  • Spleen Invigorating Channel (Bu Pi Jing

Doing so will aid a child’s digestive function by strengthening the Spleen and Stomach. It can also help clear Heat from the body.

Early intervention is the best way to help a picky eater regain their desire for food. It is important to discuss treatment options with your clinical physician or TCM practitioner to find the best solutions to encourage your child to eat well-balanced meals. 

References

  1. BMC. 2020. Childhood fussy/picky eating behaviours: a systematic review and synthesis of qualitative studies.  
  2. Sharepoint. Paediatric TCM for Shin Min and Poor Appetite/Indigestion. 
  3. Harvard Health Publishing. 2020. Study gives insight – and advice – on picky eating in children.
  4. Better Health Channel. Toddlers and fussy eating.

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