TV making kids fussy eaters

Television has emerged as the biggest culprit behind children developing and growing up with fussy eating habits. A study has revealed that 95% of fussy eating children , or those who consume nutritional food in negligible or inadequate quantities, watch television while eating meals.

The findings were made based on interviews with 206 mothers from affluent families , who had children in the age group of 3-7 years. As many as 177 (86%) had a child with fussy eating habits, and at least 10% of the mothers were extremely worried about nutritional deficiencies their child could develop.

Nutritional consultant Kim Milano, previously attached to the Children's National Medical Centre in Washington, said that while television robbing children of good eating habits was a global phenomenon, the figure of 86% was significant. "A child should be eating with his/her family sitting together and not watching TV during meals." The habit of watching TV during meals does not seem to be restricted to children; 53% of the respondents said their family sits together at the dining table and also watches TV; 33% of the respondents said some adult family members eat in front of TV sets.

Consuming junk food between meals has emerged as the second cause behind children developing fussy food habits. Forty-two per cent of mothers felt that eating junk food (specially fried foods, sweets) before meals killed their children's appetite for a proper lunch or dinner. The study found that younger the child, greater the incidence of feeding difficulties. In the study, 60% of the children with feeding difficulties were in the agegroup of 3-5 years. Twelve per cent of the mothers blamed their children's unhealthy eating habits on their maids.

Milano said parents have a tendency to control what their children eat and that may not be a very healthy practice. "Ideally , they should be controlling the environment in which the child's eating habits are nurtured , rather than controlling the child's act of eating."

She said feeding problems may be difficult, if not impossible , to correct at a later stage.

The door-to-door survey conducted by nutrition-based company Abbott and conducted by researching firm Ispos marketing, included Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore, besides Mumbai . Delhi topped the list and Bangalore was at the bottom. "Mumbai fared somewhere in the middle," said Vidya Sen, managing director, Ispos.

Milano said that by the age of nine months, a child should be trained to use a spoon or made to learn to eat. "By the age of 18 months, children should be able to feed themselves fairly well.

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