Small Appetites and other ‘Weight’ Issues: How to increase your Child’s appetite

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One thing that is common with all moms is their worry about their child’s appetite and whether he/ she is eating enough. Since the day the child is born, a mother is constantly worried about her child’s diet. I am a mother of two, and to date, my own mother worries about me not eating enough and not eating right. Even if I’m overweight, she will always feel I’m undernourished and underweight. But not eating enough, not having a good appetite, and being underweight are legitimate concerns that can affect the child’s growth and immunity. And of course, good habits established during your childhood will last you a lifetime. Therefore, it is very important that good eating habits are established as a baby so that the child can lead a healthy life. Here are a few tips and tricks to help increase your child’s appetite and also help them to gain weight.

1. Routine- Establish a routine as soon as you can. Get your baby into the habit of eating a healthy, well-balanced breakfast at a reasonable time. This will help boost their metabolism and set the tone for the day. A set routine helps to develop a healthy appetite. 2. Frequent Meals- Young children require frequent meals. Their appetites are not big enough to keep them satiated till the next big meal. Feed them every 2 hours. If your child has had lunch, don’t expect them to stay full till dinner. Offer them a meal after 2 hours of lunch, and it should be something that will tide them over until dinner. 3. Healthy Snacks- Offer your child healthy snacks between bigger meals. Fruit, muesli, fresh juice, coconut water, milkshakes, sandwiches with nut butter are healthy snack options and will keep them full until the next meal.

Tips for Healthy Snacks for Kids

Make your kids have some fun with food; healthy eating need not be boring: Use healthy alternatives like olive oil to sauté and fry. Switch to whole grain for dishes such as multigrain pizza, millet cakes, or ragi dosa. Add seasonal fruits in sweet treats such as mango muffins, whole wheat pancakes with cherries, or make a delicious crumble. Substitute cheese and mayonnaise with homemade spreads like hung-curd and hummus.

4. Don’t Overdo the Milk- This is a very common phenomenon. As mothers, we don’t even realize where we were going wrong when it comes to milk. If the baby is not eating much else, we feel it’s okay as long as he/ she has milk at least, and his/ her stomach is full. While milk does fill the child’s stomach, it also kills their appetite for food. Also, just milk is not enough to provide adequate nutrition as the child gets older. If you want your child to have a better appetite, and to gain weight, restrict the amount of milk he/ she has daily. 5. Food in Disguise- Some children are fussy eaters. In such cases, you need to figure out a way to feed them what you want to. Offer them their favorite food along with other food. For example, if your child eats cheese sandwiches, you can mix the cheese with shredded vegetables. Alternatively, to focus on building up their appetite, it is ok to let them eat their favorite food for some time, before adding other food items. Forcing too much of your choice of food may end up killing their appetite completely. 6. Oily Foods- Indian homes tend to prepare a lot of ghee and butter-laden food, especially for babies and children. While these are necessary for a limited quantity, an overdose of ghee and butter tends to fill up the stomach and also kills appetite. Ghee and butter are necessary for a baby’s development and to gain weight, but an overdose does more harm than good. 7. Post-Meal treats- Once in a while, a dessert is an excellent option. Apart from building taste buds, it also gives a child incentive to finish his/ her meal. Make your dessert healthy by offering more fruit-based options. A fruit-flavored yogurt is an excellent option for dessert. Fruits are also known to enhance metabolism and build an appetite. 8. Exercise- Exercise is known to increase appetite. This works in the case of adults and children too. Increase playtime and physical activities for your child and you will see an increase in his/ her appetite. These are just some ways in which you can help your child build a healthy appetite. Apart from an appetite, these will also help your child build healthy eating habits. Younger children require more fats; so do not curtail these in their food in a bid to make them eat healthily. Fats are also necessary for the child to gain the required weight. Children require healthy, wholesome food. They should be fed everything in moderation. If you feel your child is not gaining enough weight, do remember that some children have a quicker metabolism. However, there is no harm in consulting a doctor if you feel something is amiss.

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