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Is my child eating enough?

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Posted: Thursday, March 31, 2011 9:00 am

With childhood obesity epidemics on the rise, many parents and healthcare providers are concerned about the dietary habits of children. However, many parents to toddlers or even school-aged children may wonder if their children are eating enough.

Children often go through periods of finicky eating or disinterest in food. It is not uncommon to have a child who eats a wide variety of foods when he is younger only to dislike the same foods a year or two later.

Most doctors say that if a child is growing and active, chances are that he is healthy and getting enough food. If the opposite is true, there may be some cause for concern. Parents should consult the child's pediatrician if eating habits seem to be compromising their child's growth or energy levels.

There are estimates that a young child should eat about a tablespoon of food for each year of the child's age. Therefore, a 3-year-old should be getting at least 3 tablespoons of food. If the child is interested in more food, certainly offer it. If he pushes food away after eating, don't force more on him. Most children should have 3 meals and 2 snacks per day. Toddlers may not eat enough in one meal to remain full until the next meal. Small, healthy snacks of vegetables, whole-grain crackers or low-fat dairy products can help take the edge off of hunger.

Health experts say that it can take several introductions to a new food before the child becomes accustomed to its taste and texture. It may be a good idea to offer a variety of new foods together with something he already enjoys eating.

It's also common for kids to only eat one type of food over and over again. Don't worry that the child is not getting enough nutrition. Chances are he will grow out of this stage and soon enjoy a variety of foods.

Threats or punishments to eat will only serve to cause a poor relationship with food, advise childhood experts. Also, don't bribe a child to eat with the reward of a snack or dessert later on. This sets a poor example of eating and could lead to behavioral problems.

Many children develop finicky eating habits. However, as long as a youngster is growing regularly and has plenty of energy for daily activities, there's a good chance that the foods being eaten are not interfering with health

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