I often hear many mothers saying – “yaar bacche kuch khaate hi nahi hain!”, “How shall I make my tiny-tot sit for eating?” and the worst scenario mothers often come with, is to running after their teeny-weenies to feed them, phew! Not so long ago I was struggling with the same enquires and had a similar storyline to narrate to others. 

I guess at a certain point all tiny tots behave alike – they all have similar kinds of tantrums to throw for not eating. They make faces, show weird expressions when we mums introduce them to any new veggie. When Vyom completed his 6-8 months all I had on my mind was how to introduce him to solid foods. The first child is always like a research subject for you – you experiment, don’t leave a stone unturned to look out for every possible way that helps you to cultivate good eating habits in your child. 

So, I too was not an exception who did research about everything related to developing healthy eating in my little one. Later I realized this is such a sensitive and close matter that I just can’t afford to ignore the suggestions and experiences of my elder ones who know better than me on this. Got to learn many new things from my mom-in-law, mom, and aunts in the family about kids and their eating habits in the early years of childhood. They handed over me a huge list of healthy foods and essential items that are good for little one’s health and overall growth.

Now, I had everything ready at my end – I had full information about the kind of food that should be given to my tiny one, how to cook that food, how many meals I should be giving to Vyom in the early stages, and much more of it. Just the challenge was to actually do it all in real, so with a little nervous heart but information equipped mind I introduced the very first solid meal to Vyom- a masoor-daal and veggie khichdi. I started giving him different recipes of fruits, vegetables, porridge, and rice. 

I gave him fats in the right amount, juices, raw salad, and even introduced him to nuts that he still relishes. I think I had been lucky enough to introduce healthy food to my first son in quite a well manner. But there’s always a scope of improvement in whatever you do, with Avrom my second child, I happened to realize some of the shortfalls at the time of Vyom’s introduction to solid foods. 

So, I wanted to improve on my nurturing skills and introduce Avrom to solid foodstuff in a new way. This time I came up with quite a few changes in my cooking style & feedingstuffs pattern in addition to trying out new and other healthy options of meals. I came to some very important realizations related to kids and their eating patterns and likes & dislikes:

 – kids get bored with regular tastes very easily.

–  they must be introduced to every new taste at a very early age so that it can help them to develop their own taste of foods.

– they will eat only when they are super-hungry!

– every child likes different flavors some like sweet and others might like salty foods, no wonders a few would like spicy food too! But this should not restrict you from serving all kind of flavors to them, don’t let any single flavor to become dominant for them. 

–  they are fascinated by attractive and colorful cutlery and utensils. 

–  they can’t make out the taste of the veggie or fruit they dislike when added or mixed with any other flavors.

-they want to explore eating own their own, let them mess up a little with their food it’s all okay believe me!

– they behave like picky eaters sometimes.

– appreciating them for finishing their food or rewarding them with lollies, cupcakes in dessert or a warm hug make them super HAPPY!

– kids enjoy eating when they eat together with siblings/buddies/family.

These observations further helped me to create my own way of developing good eating habits in my kiddos. Here they are:

Stop coerced feeding – Peeche bhaagna band karo! Remember when your tiny one is really hungry he/she will definitely eat. When I literally realized this fact, that day onwards I stopped running after or forcing either Vyom or Avrom and still continuing with the same. When the lads are hungry they ask for food and gulp down the whole meal served to them.

Set a regular time for snacks and meals: setting a definite time table of eating is very important for kids or for anyone for that matter. When we eat or do anything at a particular time of the day our mind starts sending signals to our sensor and motor organs and we eventually get into a habit of doing that activity regularly at the same time. Likewise, if you serve meals and snacks to your child at the same hours every day they will automatically get habitual of eating without any hassles. It’s tried and tested!

Show how to eat well to develop good eating habits: over the time I have realized kids are our reflection only, they learn from not what we teach them but what they see us doing. My kids see me eating healthy and good meals, I even take some bites from the food I cook for them to show that I am also relishing what they are eating and hence it is good for them.

Serve interesting dishes with healthy foods: it’s beyond my surprise to understand that how quickly kids’ tastes do change. They get bored with regular meals and flavors pretty fast, so be ready to play no lesser than being a chef mom. I keep on experimenting with regular veggies and fruits and try to make interesting combinations that are not only yummy but also healthy.

Keep a balanced fat intake: whether it is fats, proteins, vitamins, calcium, and other nutrients there should never be the overconsumption of any one nutrient in your kids’ meals. Especially with regard to fats – it should be given in the desired quantity, too much of fats would only make the kids obese. My kiddos love fritters and other fried stuff, so giving them fried food once or twice in a week is workable but not more than that. There are other options like baking and roasting with little oil which I prefer to follow. But still, nothing can replace the goodness of a tablespoon of desi-ghee that I put in their meals as a natural and necessary source of energy and fats.

Avoid them showing mobile phones while feeding meals: eating time should never be accompanied by noise and technology in particular. I used to allow Vyom to watch mobile phones while he is eating but this later made me realize that his whole attention was into watching mobile and not eating, he is just gulping down the bites without even chewing the food properly. But this is not the case anymore, khaane ke time par sirf khana!

Family meals: having family meals together is very important for kids to develop good eating habits. I have personally seen this when kids eat with the whole family they tend to enjoy their meals much more. My kids feel like it’s a celebration taking place every time we all family members sit together to eat. They eat, laugh, talk, and learn how wonderful it is to be eating together. One more thing I want to mention here is that don’t push your kid to clean up their plates and leaving behind not a single bite. If they finish it all willingly that’s good but if not, then don’t be annoyed with them. Instead, give them small portions of meals at first. If they feel more hungry they can take some more later. 

So, this is the food story of my kids, what is yours? I hope the things I have mentioned above would relate to you all somewhere. However, every mother has a distinct experience and I would love to know about your experience too and what you are doing to develop good eating habits in your kids.