by Dr. Norimah A. Karim
Your child’s growth is one of your primary concerns as parents. In fact, every parent in the world wants his or her child to grow up strong and healthy. It is understandable that you want your child to be the smartest, strongest, or the healthiest child in his class.
Hence, some parents may feel the need to frequently monitor their child's nutritional intake, which at times can lead to additional worry about the child's 'lack of appetite'. When he is eating less than his older sibling, you worry.
When he keeps playing with his food rather than eating it, you worry. When he prefers eating smaller meals, you worry.
More often than not, there is nothing wrong with your child. Just because he is not eating as much as you would have liked or expected does not mean that your child has a poor appetite. Nor does it mean that he will grow up stunted and malnourished.
As long as your child follows the recommended dietary guidelines and is healthy, you should not worry too much.
Is Your Child Eating a Balanced and Adequate Meal?
Good nutrition is essential for growing children. A growing child needs foods that fuel him with energy so that he can play, learn, and explore the world. However, good nutrition does not mean that your child has to eat as much as possible. Chances are, if you pile your child's plate high with food, he will not be able to finish it.
When this happens, do not take this as an indication of a feeding problem, but understand that every child is different and appetite may also vary considerably. Follow the 3 golden rules below to ensure that your child is well nourished :
Having too much or too little of a certain nutrient is never good as this may result in health problems. Avoid nutritional excesses or deficiencies by referring to the Food Guide Pyramid. Serve something from each level for each meal to give your child the nutritional balance he needs.
Kids may sometimes enjoy foods that are often considered bad (like sweets). However, bear in mind that all foods can be part of healthy eating as long as they are taken in moderation.
The same applies to foods considered healthy. Eating too much of a good thing is not necessarily good, so teach your child how to enjoy their favourite foods in moderation.
No single food can meet all the nutritional needs of your child. The type and amount of nutrients available varies from food to food. So, give your child a variety of food for each meal to ensure that your child gets all the nutrients he needs daily.
That said, above all, quality is always more important than quantity. Your child will grow up just fine if he does not eat everything you put on his plate, as long he eats according to the recommended nutritional guidelines. His body is perfectly capable of telling him how much food he needs to regulate his growth.
Is Your Child Getting Enough?
So, how do you determine if your child is getting the appropriate amount of nutrients that he needs to support his growth?
The most simple and effective way to do so is by assessing your child's physical growth periodically. Monitor his height and body weight and use those measurements to calculate his Body Mass Index.
Note that an average child grows taller by 6cm to 8cm and 2kg to 3kg heavier annually. However, do remember that your child will grow at his own rate and comparisons with his peers or siblings may be futile.
How to Calculate BMI
Get your child's weight and height measurements and use the following formula to calculate his or her BMI :
BMI = weight (kg) / height (m) x height (m)
After you have calculated his BMI, use the growth charts that are based on the standards recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to determine if your child's growth is satisfactory. Take note that the growth charts are gender specific, so you need to use the appropriate chart for boys or girls.
If your child is growing right (based on the BMI calculation), you do not need to worry even if his eating habits are not to your liking.
Additionally, watch out for other signs that indicate that your child is getting the nourishment he needs :
* Your child achieves the appropriate developmental milestones
* Your child is mentally alert and is able to learn and play well
* Your child has sufficient energy (or more) to cope with his daily activities
* Your child is healthy and is in good physical shape
You can also take your child to the doctor for a complete assessment of his growth and development, if you prefer to get advice from the experts. Using the measurements taken during each visit, the doctor will be able to chart your child's growth patterns and alert you if any problems are detected.
Watching your child grow should be an experience that every parent enjoys. Thus, do not burden yourself with unnecessary worries about your child's eating habits. The key is to have your child eat right and monitor your child's growth.
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