I have always been a serial muncher. Chalk it up to my four years of high school dorm life (when has dorm food ever been appetizing?). My favorite eating pattern is salty-sweet-salty-sweet, which usually translates to chips-cookies-chips-chocolate. Then I married The Hubby, who didn’t eat with as much gusto as I do, especially snack food (I think being around me has changed that a bit). I’m also the type who’d rather sleep than eat, and will take the path of least effort—e.g. eat peanut butter sandwiches for the nth time rather than cook.
Now that I have two daughters though, I really want them to have healthy eating habits. I also don’t want them to form any bad habits, which is why I am resolved to avoid the following:
- ‘Restaurant’ eating. You know the kind—when your kids demand to eat fried chicken at 3PM, after skipping lunch and barely eating breakfast? I am sometimes guilty of this, mostly because it’s so much easier to give in and think “at least she’s eating” rather than exert the effort to instill discipline in Raine. This is, I think, the hardest habit for me to break. Aside from currently having an erratic and unpredictable household schedule, I need to discipline myself before I can discipline my kids.While it could be a good idea to offer babies learning how to eat solids their favorite foods at first, older children will have to learn to eat what is served. If we cater to their pickiness, how will they learn to eat in variety?The solution? If they refuse to eat at mealtime, don’t force them. However, don’t feed them anything else until the next scheduled meal or snack. As my mom (and Dr. James Dobson of the very popular Dare to Discipline book) says, kids won’t die if they didn’t eat for a day.
- Playing or watching TV while eating. Another bad habit of ours, both me and The Hubby. This time, we blame it on the years of living alone, with no company at mealtime other than a book or laptop. I know that mealtimes should be focused on the food, and yes, as much as possible, bonding as a family. Playing, reading and watching TV shouldn’t be done during meals. Get your child used to eating at the table or in his high chair. Try not to chase them around with a spoonful of food, and avoid having toys during mealtime (we got to do this with Raine, but Breeze—since the Great Aling Lourdes, our ever reliable day-help feeds her most of the time—is a different case; Breeze also has different needs, but that’s another story). “You don’t have to play with your baby when you feed her…just be pleasant and make it interesting to eat,” says online friend Jacqueline, mother of then-11-month-old Simone. “Smile, and as much as possible, have her look at you…when you are eating, and show her how [enjoyable] it is.”Eating in front of the TV also encourages mindless gulping down of food, and can lead to overeating and other bad eating habits.
- Too much sweet drinks. While you may not give your baby soda, you may not realize that too much juice can also be bad for your child’s health. Even 100% fruit juice contains a lot of sugar, and can add to your child’s calories. “You’re better off giving the actual fruit than giving just the juice,” says our pediatrician Dr. Eduardo Borja. Avoid giving juice till at least a year old, then give only 100% fresh juice, with no sugar added. Limit juice to 3oz-4oz a day. Try not to give powdered juices, which is mostly sugar and flavoring. On a side note—this we got right. One point for Mommy and Daddy, at last!
- Too much milk. While kids who like drinking milk is definitely a plus, too much milk may not be good either. If he drinks more than the recommended amount and eats solids, he may be getting more calories than his body actually needs. Or milk could be interfering with eating of other food. Consult your pediatrician on the proper amounts if you are concerned about this.
*I wrote a similar version of this article that has been published in Smart Parenting Magazine.