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Hospital Particular Alvor

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Hospital Particular Gambelas

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Madeira Medical Center

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Doctor Luís Gonçalves

Pediatrician and Neonatologist
Coordinator of the Department 
of Pediatrics and Neonatology

And meal time is… a moment of pleasure or battle?

HPA Magazine 12


Mealtimes are not just a matter of nutrition; they should also be moments of pleasure! But this is not always the case. And for all of us parents, mealtime can become a real torment for us and our children.
The main rule is to know that there are no rules. However, there are some basic rules: we mustn’t forget that we will all be able to feed our children, as do other parents and other families!

The second rule is to insist, to insist and to insist once again without forcing ... and to never give up! It has been proven that it takes 8 to 11 attempts for a child to get accustomed to a new food! The sweet taste is innate, however one must learn to like others (salty, sour, and bitter) and this takes time. The first time we might manage one spoon, two spoons, tomorrow we will most likely manage more. 
When the child does not have physical or neurological problems, there is no reason why he should not eat according to the eating plan provided by the pediatrician. 



From the age of one, the child is prepared to try the same meals as the rest of the family. As long as food is not excessively seasoned and is low in salt and fat. Sugar should be avoided. 
Food and meal times, in particular, should translate into moments of pleasure and learning for the child. In addition, chewing and swallowing is important for balanced facial development and language. During meals the various flavors, odors, colors and textures of food are integrated, originating a motor response in the child, not only for chewing and swallowing, but also neuro-sensorial.
For some children this process is easy and natural, for others these mixed flavors, odors and textures provoke reactions and the answers may range from refusing to open the mouth, sticking the tongue to the roof of the mouth, not swallowing or even inducing vomit.
The child is discovering new flavors and preferences, so is natural for it to enjoy this or that food more than the other. Of all the food he hates, there will surely be one that he dislikes less. 
If the mother has had a diverse and balanced diet throughout pregnancy it will help in the introduction and diversity of food for the child. This concept is integrated in the first thousand days of life, which includes pregnancy and the child’s first 2 years. We therefore have approximately two years to get our child to eat healthy, balanced and diversified.
Yes, believe me, he will eat soup and vegetables!
Happy family meals!! And no tantrums!
 

 

Some mealtime tips

  • Do not turn mealtimes into battles. If you think things will go wrong, this will be transmitted in your tone of voice, facial expression and body language.
  • Tantrums are also part of growing up. During mealtimes all attention is focused on the child, it may be the ideal time to show that he can make decisions.
  • Tell your child beforehand that it is almost mealtime!
  • From an early age, the child can collaborate with basic mealtime tasks (counting the serviettes, helping to set out the tablecloth, peeling fruit that doesn’t require a knife).
  • Mealtimes should be a tranquil period for both pa-rents and children, the dining area should preferably not have a television or it should be switched off.
  • All members of the family should sit together at mealtimes; they are periods of pleasure and conviviality. Talk to your children during meals. Make the moment a special family gathering. 
  • Decide which rules you want to see implemented during meals and be firm in applying them, explaining each one where necessary.
  • Meal should be the same for everyone! That is, parents should eat the soup, the main dish and desert, giving an example.
  • Let the child touch the food. Getting dirty is part of growing and also promotes autonomy.
  • The trick is to serve small portions several times. This applies to children of all ages. For children who often induce vomiting this is crucial. Feed small portions at a time, using only the edge of the spoon. 
  • Let the child taste the food. The fact that we want to rush the meal, so that the moment of terror ends quickly, may not help the child learn to eat. Remember that it takes 8 to 11 attempts to like broccoli or any other new food!
  • If the child has eaten little or nothing at all, it should not be allowed to leave the table immediately, ideally only when everyone has finished their meal. The time spent at the table should be adjusted to the resistance limit of each child’s frustration.
  • Giving the child its favorite snack immediately after a meal (milk, biscuits), just because it ate poorly, may be instilling the idea that if it doesn’t eat soup, fish or meat, it is not that important. 
  • We may even resort to giving the child its favorite snack, but always after the soup, meat, fish or fruit.
  • Appeal to the child’s imagination. If he doesn’t like peas for example, try tell him a story involving peas. You can also say that his favorite characters love peas.
  • Do not let your child eat between meals. 
  • Avoid forcing! He does not need to eat everything that is on the plate, only what is essential.
  • Punishment related to food should be avoided.
  • When going out for a meal to a restaurant for example, allow the child to take a toy with him to keep him entertained.