From advise for children who are picky eaters to how to order healthy food when eating out, Dr Mirey Karavetian, Nutritionist, Genesis Perinatal Care Clinic, and Lecturer at Zayed University, has all the answers regarding your child’s dietary needs.
Q.) Why are there more overweight kids now compared to past generations?
A.) Lifestyles are changing faster than the evolution of the human body. The use of electronics and automobiles are making life move faster but creating even less opportunity to move the body. The mind is developing faster than ever but no more space/time for the body to move. We live in an obesogenic environment, where it is easy to be overweight or obese; it is easy to live a sedentary lifestyle, it is normal for a child to spend the day in front of electronics, and cars and classrooms. It is not safe anymore for a parent to allow the child to go out and just be a kid, play and be active. Roads are not safe for children to use active transport (bike/scooter) to move around.
Q.) What do you advise for parents whose children have a sweet tooth?
A.) Follow these tips for appeasing your child’s sweet tooth:
- Have homemade healthy snacks available at home in limited amounts.
- Create a schedule for snacks and let the whole family stick to it.
- Be the role model for moderation. Serve in limited amounts for the whole family and make sure no refill is done.
- Do not overdo on the “no”-s for your child’s sweet tooth. The more you forbid the more the child will desire.
Q.) Is it better for a child to go hungry if they refuse to eat what’s given to them or to give in and allow them to have what they want?
A.) Raising a child is a power struggle between the parent and the child. Children try to use all methods to conquer this power struggle. One of the very few things they can take fully in their control is what goes in their mouth. Giving in to their picky eating can empower the child’s strength in having things done his/her way.
For this, each parent is encouraged to stay in power. When a child refuses a healthy meal, the only thing to do is remove the healthy meal and any other food, and serve another healthy meal a few hours later. While this is easier said than done, it is definitely worth trying. You should raise a child who is not arrogant nor thinks that the world is their servant.
Q.) What is your advice for parents whose children are picky eaters?
A.) Picky eating can be the results of two things:
- Seeking attention of the parents through “odd” behaviour and for this the parents should work on giving positive feedback and attention to the child when behaving well and eating well), yet not overreacting when the child refuses. This method will teach the child that the only way to get the attention of the parent is through good behaviour.
- Having no family structure for meals. Often parents complain that their child does not have proper meals yet when asked, the parents realise that they also do not sit for meals. You want your child to sit for meals so you should do the same. You can also invite other kids to mealtimes (friends, cousins), and create that whole mealtime concept in the house.
But no matter the problem, do not ever force-feed your child. Try to understand your child on his reasons for refusing. Often presenting the food in an attractive way could be the reason. Make mealtimes fun.
Q.) Families eat out a lot in Dubai, but the children’s menu is usually very limited. What should parents be ordering for their children?
A.) You can always order a healthy dish for adults and share it with the child. As long as the dish has the below distribution, then it is a good meal:
- Avoid fried foods
- Chose low fat dairy (for children aged two and above)
- Chose whole grain when possible
- Chose crunchy vegetables and fruits
- Chose lean meat/chicken
- Fish is always a good choice for protein