Cultivating healthy eating habits among children has always been a tough battle for mothers. According to a survey released on Monday, 86% of the 206 mothers interviewed in Mumbai said their children (three to seven year age group) were 'fussy eaters'.
Fussy eaters, as defined in the survey, are children who eat nutritious food items such as fruits, vegetables, milk, dairy products among others either selectively, in lesser quantities or does not eat them at all.
Ninety-five percent of the mothers who called their children 'fussy eaters' said their children watch television while eating food.
A nutrition company that deals with baby food commissioned the door-to-door survey, which was conducted in January by Ispos Marketing, a global researching firm. The survey was conducted in six cities - Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai among a total of 1,223 mothers.
"The nationwide data suggests that 88% of the mothers said their children were fussy eaters. While the highest number of fussy eaters were found in Delhi, the lowest was in Bangalore," said Vidya Sen, managing director, Ispos Marketing. Mumbai placed fourth among the six cities surveyed in the number of fussy eaters.
"While globally, there is a prevalence of feeding difficulties among children, 86% is particularly high. Watching television or any kind of distraction while eating is problematic. The child should be eating while sitting at a dining table with his family," said Kim Milano, a pediatric nutritionist with Children's National Centre, Washington, and association with the nutrition firm.
The survey also revealed that 42% of mothers felt that eating junk food (such as fried foods and chocolate) before meals resulting in fussy eating behaviour in their children.
Milano, who studied this problem, said most well-meaning parents want to control what their children eat. "A controlling parent will try to control the child's eating, will restrict food from the child and provide bribes of rewards. They tend to nag the child and try to distract the child to feed them. While a parent should control the conditions of eating, they should never control the act of eating," said Milano.
Milano suggests that by the age of nine months, a child should be given a spoon to pick on food. By the age of one year to 18 months, children should be able to feed themselves fairly well.
"Feeding problems can result in behavioural problems that are harder to correct. For instance, one child gagged and vomited while being fed forcefully by his parents. He refused to eat any food for two weeks and had to be hospitalised," said Milano.