Nutrition: Raising Healthy Babies
I’m one of those moms that worry when my son doesn’t eat enough. My task of making sure my son eats well each day is only complete when I see him eat a bowl of soup with rice and vegetables and a side of fish. I start to worry when he denies the food I put in front of him.
A recent article in Fast Company explores the work of Jerry Sternin and Save the Children. Sternin studied the eating habits of poor children in Viet Nam and concluded that some children could be very healthy despite their disadvantages. The article notes the following:
The bright spot moms were feeding their kids four meals a day (using the same amount of food as other moms but spreading it across four servings rather than two). The larger twice-a-day meals eaten by most families turned out to be a mistake for children, because their malnourished stomachs couldn't process that much food at one time.
The style of eating was also different. Most parents believed that their kids understood their own needs and would feed themselves appropriately from a communal bowl. But the healthy kids were fed more actively -- by hand if necessary. The children were even encouraged to eat when they were sick, which was not the norm.
Perhaps most interesting, the healthy kids were eating different kinds of food. The bright-spot mothers were collecting tiny shrimp and crabs from the rice paddies and mixing them in with their kids' rice. The mothers also tossed in sweet-potato greens, which were considered a low-class foods.
In my own experience, there are times when I place a bowl of food at Kai’s table but he doesn’t show interest. Sometimes I wait a few minutes and I’m able to feed him directly.
Hiding healthy foods in Kai’s meal is also key. I tend to make a lot of soups with vegetables because he’ll still get the nutrients by sipping only the broth. The issues facing children in rural Vietnam are mostly different from our children. However, Sternin makes a strong case that eating healthy isn’t expensive or exclusive to only well off kids but it does take time and effort. Time is not something every parent has. But for most of us, we do have to prioritize making our children’s food as natural and healthy as possible.
To make a healthy bowl of rice porridge, click here. I always add some minced carrots, cabbage, and small bits of chicken.
While eating, Kai and I always toast with our foods and say cheers. That way he knows eating is a special experience.