No matter what age our children are, one of our constant concerns is their diet and nutrition. We always want to make sure they are eating a balanced diet and getting the nutrients they need to reach their full growth potential. But what if they remain picky about food and hence, payatot?
Here to answer questions from parents of payatot kids and picky eaters, and other mealtime-related dilemnas is Dr. Cricket Palanca-Chen, pediatrician at St. Luke's Medical Center Global City and affiliate of the Philippine Pediatric Society: “My three-year- old suddenly stopped eating solid food. The only thing she wants to take is fresh milk. I tried giving her different types of food—even sweets—but nothing works. Even at school, she doesn’t want to eat the food everyone in the class shares. How do I deal?”
First, find out the reason why. Does she have an oral cavity? Does chewing food cause her pain? Does she have trouble swallowing solid food? Does she have stomach pain and constipation after eating solids?
If these symptoms are not present, you can stop giving her milk first. When your daughter feels hungry, she’ll start eating solid food again, and she’ll see that it’s not so bad. If she knows that she can get away with just drinking milk and that the milk makes her feel full, then she will not look for solid food.
“We make sure our toddler daughter has a good diet and enough supplements to keep her healthy. Despite all these, she looks thin and isn’t gaining a lot of weight. Should we worry? Do we need to give her more supplements?”
First, check with your daughter’s pediatrician how she’s doing in terms of the growth percentile. Pediatricians have a guide that tells you if your child is within normal limits for weight and height. We worry only when our patients don’t follow the normal growth curve.
Some parents are very subjective when they gauge if their child is fat or thin, so it’s better if your child’s weight is plotted on a percentile chart. If your daughter’s weight falls within the normal percentile, then you don’t need to worry. If she’s below the normal, see a nutritionist who will compute for the calories she needs daily, so you can be more conscious of the quantity and the quality of the food that you give your daughter.
My gauge is how often the child gets sick. I have a lot of patients who are thin but hardly get sick, and there are those who belong to the higher percentile but get sick frequently. Your weight also depends on your genes.
“My kids are getting sick of having eggs in the morning, but I don’t know what else to serve them that’s healthy. Five o’clock in the morning is not the time to engage in a battle of wills, because I’ll lose and just say yes to their requests for hot dogs and sugary cereal.”
Your kids can just have a banana and milk on the way to school. Because they’re not so hungry yet at 5 a.m., they can have breakfast during their morning recess period.
Having eggs every day is not bad, because children need protein and also cholesterol for the development of their nervous system. They can process cholesterol well, because their livers are still very healthy. Hardboiled egg is the best protein source during breakfast.
“My six-month old baby is already starting to eat solids. Aside from squash and potatoes, what else can I give her?”
Start with rice cereal. It’s what our ancestors ate, and we Filipinos don’t have an intolerance for it. Rice is safer than oat and wheat, as some children could develop wheat allergies.
As for fruits, try apples, pears, bananas, avocados, and papayas. Serve sweet potatoes and carrots, too. Remember to soften the food first and then mash it to avoid choking.
“My two-year- old boy is a picky eater. He likes to drink only juice and chocolate milk, never water. He likes eating bread and viand but never rice. What should we do to encourage him to drink water and eat rice to complete his meals?”
You can add slices of fruits such as lemon, apple, and melon to your child’s water to flavor it. He might like this because it tastes like diluted juice. There are carbohydrate sources other than rice such as pasta, potatoes, and oatmeal, but I wouldn’t worry so much if your son doesn’t like eating rice. It’s more important to give him protein-rich food because he’s growing. You can also try serving him misua.
This article originally appeared in parts in the June 2015, July 2015, August 2015 and September 2015 issues of Smart Parenting magazine.
Minor edits have been made by the Smartparenting.com.ph editors.