Help's here for parents of picky eaters

PHOTO: Help's here for parents of picky eaters

SINGAPORE - Mealtimes spell stress for Ms Shirley Ng, 33, who constantly loses battles with her two-year-old son, Travis Yap, to eat his greens.

She said: "Sometimes, we would try to hide vegetables in his food. But, if he finds them, he would force himself to vomit."

Ms Ng, who works as a patient- service associate, said that while vegetables, like carrot, broccoli and spinach, draw her son's ire, he loves meat.

She had noticed Travis' picky eating habits when he was about a year old and consulted a doctor, worried that he would not get adequate nutrition.

Parents who face such problems with their kids can now seek assistance at the National University Hospital (NUH) Feeding and Nutrition Clinic, which opened earlier this month.

Helmed by a multidisciplinary team - comprising speech therapists, dietitians, child psychologists and paediatricians - the clinic screens children with growth-related or nutritional problems.

It also customises each child's treatment and therapy.

A recent study conducted by Associate Professor Daniel Goh, who heads the department of paediatrics at NUH, showed that picky eating among children in Singapore is a prevalent issue.

Between May and June this year, 407 parents and grandparents of children aged one to 10 were surveyed in Singapore.

Almost half of them, or 49.2 per cent, perceived their child to be a picky eater.

When presented with a list of 12 typical behaviours, such as throwing tantrums during mealtimes, 49.6 per cent of respondents said that the prevalence of picky eating or feeding difficulties occurred all the time.

Nearly half the respondents also expressed concern over their child's fussy eating habits, worried that they could affect their child physically and mentally.

Prof Goh said that "the causes of picky eating and its impact can be very wide-ranging".

Those elements were not covered in his study, which was published in the Asia Pacific Family Medicine journal in July.

Prof Goh said that picky eating requires evaluation on a case-by-case basis, as there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Ms Charlotte Lin, an NUH dietitian, said the problem may bring about undernourishment, resulting in poor brain and cognitive development.

She said: "Children get very tired easily as well and that affects their social interaction."

In Ms Ng's case, Travis still dictates what he wants to eat and rejects anything that he does not fancy.

She said: "So now, (whatever) he wants, we will just give (it to) him."

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