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My child is a picky eater. Help!

Dr. Tejasvi Seshadri

Dr. Tejasvi Seshadri

My four-year-old is a picky eater. It’s a challenge to get her to eat well. Please advise.
— Laavni Bhat, Mumbai

Healthy balanced nutrition is critical for young children’s orderly physical growth and development. Here are a few recommendations on how you can address the fussy eating habits of your child.

  • The entire family should eat together everyday. Watching other family members eat new and varied foods will induce her to try them.
  • Provide your child with food choices. This will give her a sense of control and encourage her to try new foods.
  • Make an effort to prepare a varied diet incorporating different spices and consistencies.
  • Be patient! If your child refuses a particular dish, give it a try again after a few days. Don’t force and pressure her to eat. This will encourage negative sentiment.
  • Maintain a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere during mealtimes.

My three-year-old son has just begun attending playschool. I am scared that he will pick up an infection in school. What are some effective strategies to boost his immune system?
— Meera Vishnu, Kochi

It’s not uncommon for toddlers to have as many as eight-12 viral colds, respiratory and/or stomach infections per year. This is because of sudden exposure to viruses and bacteria. Follow these practices to boost her immunity to prevent infections:

  • Provide him a healthy balanced diet comprising fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein. Avoid junk and processed food.
  • Ensure he gets adequate sleep — minimum eight-10 hours of good quality sleep.
  • Exercise is an immunity booster. Encourage her to be physically active for at least one hour every day.
  • Vaccinations provide innate immunity. So strictly adhere to the compulsory vaccinations schedule and give him optional vaccines for flu and typhoid.
  • Avoid and restrict your child from interacting with peers/ family members who are down with colds and other viral infections.
  • Teach and encourage him to follow good hygiene practices such as hand washing and daily baths.

My eight-year-old has a very sedentary lifestyle. How can I limit his screen time and encourage him to play outdoors?
— Roshni Mandara, Bengaluru

The Indian Academy of Paediatrics recommends minimum five hours of physical activity per week and limiting screen time to less than two hours per day for children. With childhood obesity on the rise, parents have a special duty to limit children’s screen time and increase physical activity. Childhood obesity increases risk of onset of diabetes mellitus, hypertension and heart disease.

You need to lead by example by incorporating physical activity in your daily schedule. Plan outdoor activities in parks and other outdoor spaces. Regular exercise will improve her immunity, increase vitamin D levels and improve concentration capabilities. Apart from proactively enforcing daily screen time limits, you should especially prohibit access to digital devices during meals and at least two hours before bedtime.

(Dr. Tejasvi Seshadri is consultant paediatrician and paediatric endocrinologist at SPARSH Superspeciality chain of hospitals, Bangalore)

Also read: Promoting healthy food habits in children

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