Between two and five years, many children develop all kinds of food fads for many of which the parents themselves may be responsible. Very often the mother thinks that a particular food is good for the child and she insists on the child having it.
The child becomes equally adamant and refuses to eat whenever forced to do so. Not only that, he may even react by vomiting, thereby frightening the mother and teaching her a lesson, so to speak. While it is important that the child should have a mixed household diet, there is no harm if a child does not eat a particular food because he does not like it. Usually likes and dislikes result from the remarks of the other members of the family regarding their own likes or dislikes of certain foods. Naturally the child wants to imitate whatever the older people do or say.
The food requirements vary from one child to another and the child’s appetite is the best guide. A child should have a healthy appetite and eat three or four main meals with some small snacks in between. About half a litre of milk should be given everyday to the child in a vegetarian family. Egg, meat or fish can be given as often as possible to children of non-vegetarian families.
There is no particular value attached to a raw or a half-boiled egg, a scrambled egg or an omlette, and they should be allowed to have it. As a matter of fact, the proteins in raw egg are not well absorbed so there is no point in giving it to the child in that form. Raw or inadequately cooked egg can also result in infection.
Some children like to be told a story during meal times and there is nothing wrong with that. Meal times should be enjoyable rather than be something that one has to get done with as quickly as possible. The child should set the pace and not the mother.
If a child does not like a particular food, it can be omitted for a few days or given in some other form. Vegetables can be given as cutlets or stuffed in chappatis or added to dal. Milk can be given as curd, panir or kheer.
It is never wise to start a battle with the child because invariably the child will win and you will be even more frustrated at the end of the day. Just as grown-ups have their food preferences, the baby is also entitled to his. The food should not have chillies or spices and should be comfortably warm or cool, neither too hot nor too cold.
Some babies prefer sweet things while others like savoury stuff, but be careful with sugar and do not encourage a sweet tooth. The food items should be changed frequently as the child gets bored eating the same thing. Never resort to arguments, force feeding, frightening or beating the child. And they lead to problems later on.