A Registered Dietician-Nutritionist, Olusola Malomo, has urged parents not to allow their children, especially those under the age of five years to watch television whenever they are eating food, warning that it causes a distraction.
The dietician stated that watching television while eating is a bad habit that kids should not be allowed to develop, noting that it could lead to poor food intake.
According to him, poor food intake can affect children’s growth and development aside from increasing the risk of malnutrition.
Malomo, who is an Assistant Chief Dietician at the Ajeromi General Hospital, Lagos, disclosed this in an exclusive interview obtained by LN247.
The dietician noted that not only does television cause distraction to children whenever they are having their meal but also makes them eat little.
He explained, “Television and toys are distractions to children. Some children will prefer to play with toys rather than to eat.
“Some will prefer to watch cartoons rather than to eat and feeding needs concentration for them to finish their food.
“These are some of the things we have observed particularly with under-five feeding. Children shouldn’t grow up eating in front of the television, even adults should avoid it. We call it behavioural modification.
“Anytime there is a feeding session, children should know that meal time is meal time and should respect it and eat. They should grow up with that habit.”
According to him, adequate nutrition goes beyond the provision of food, stressing that it has to do with the qualitative adequacy of the food in terms of quality, quantity, and availability of that food that is eaten in the body.
“The recommendation is to let the feeding time be feeding time and let every distraction be off so that after their meal, they can come back to watch the television.
“When feeding children, any distraction should be kept away from them. Television, toys, and anything that can distract their attention from feeding should be kept away from them because more children will have a preference for these toys and television over their meals at that particular point.
“And that will reduce the quantity or quality of food that will be available to them for that meal. They may eat less or may not even be interested in the food and this can lead to malnutrition”, he said.
According to the World Health Organisation, the first two years of a child’s life are particularly important, as optimal nutrition during this period lowers morbidity and mortality, reduces the risk of chronic disease, and fosters better development overall.
Malomo also told our correspondent that the environment where children are fed was equally important including the colour of the plates and spoons used to feed them.
Speaking further on this, the dietician said colourful plates stimulate babies to eat.
He stated, “Children are used to colours and bright colours attract and excite them.
“For a child that is not taking interest in food, even that plate alone as an item like a toy could make the child eat.
“Plates with bright colours should be used to feed children and they should also have more than one plate.
“Children under-five should have a variety of colourful plates even spoons in their nutrition. They have a way of stimulating them to be eager to eat.”
Advising parents to feed their children responsively the dietician said, “When the food is prepared, the quantity that gets to the child at the end of the day, matters most.
“Often, some children may be picky eaters, for example, they don’t want to eat. In this case, care and nurture come into play. We call it responsive feeding.”
The WHO’s guiding principles for appropriate complementary feeding also recommended that mothers should feed their under-five babies responsively.
“Infant and young child feeding is a key area to improve child survival and promote healthy growth and development. Practice responsive feeding (for example, feed infants directly and assist older children).
“Feed slowly and patiently, encourage them to eat but do not force them, talk to the child and maintain eye contact); practice good hygiene and proper food handling,” the WHO recommended.