Are children growing as well as they should these days? Probably, and exceeding expectations too. In his January 2022 editorial for CNA online, Dr Lim Yang Chern commented on the trend of Singapore children getting fatter, especially during the last two years of the pandemic. “By my estimate, about one in five kids I saw was overweight (body mass index over 85th percentile) or worse, obese (above 95th percentile),” the consultant paediatrician at the Thomson Paediatric Centre (Jurong East) wrote.
But not all children go from chub bubs to strapping youngsters. Some struggle to reach even average height and weight milestones for their age. Parents of these children say their young ones show no interest in mealtimes, and have a preference for snacks versus proper meals.
“They will eat when they are hungry” and “they will grow when it’s time for them to grow” are oft-bantered pieces of advice from more mellow mums and dads. But what if the children don’t?
TCM tips for eating and growing well
If you are the caregiver who has to prepare the meal and cajole your child to eat it (sometimes for up to two hours – #beentheredonethat ), mealtimes can be exhausting. Establishing good eating habits, and reinforcing routines help, say parenting experts, but they do not always work.
As it turns out, there could be other reasons why your child isn’t eating, or growing well. They could have underlying gastrointestinal discomforts such as indigestion, acid reflux, abdomen bloating, constipation, or diarrhoea, shares Jasmine Xie, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Physician at EMW Physiotherapy & TCM. Genetics, as well as social and environmental influences, also play a part.
Hence if your child is constantly unable to eat properly for main meals, consider bringing them for a checkup to determine underlying medical issues could be causing the problem. Left unattended, these could lead to further health problems, Jasmine cautions.
“In TCM, there is a saying: the disharmony in stomach energy will affect and disturb one’s night rest. When a child is not able to rest well for the night, it diminishes the body’s ability to recover and regenerate.” Read on for Jasmine’s TCM tips to help children eat well and grow better.
(See also: 8 Expert Strategies to Build your Child’s Self-esteem and give them Confidence in Life)
5 dietary and lifestyle modifications to help your child grow well
1. Take meals at regular times
Have breakfast, lunch, and dinner at regular times during the day: breakfast (7-9am), Lunch (11:30am-1:30pm), and dinner (5:30-7:30pm).
2. Evaluate food choices
Meals should include macronutrients (carbohydrates, lean proteins, healthy fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) which are required by the body for growth and repair. Choose a variety of food within each essential food group. Select fresh, wholesome, and unprocessed food such as wholegrains, lean meat, dairy products. Put age-appropriate portions on your child’s plate; don’t overload them in your desire to see them eat more.
3. Avoid sugary food items and cold drinks
Indulging in sugary food such as sweets, chocolates and cakes can increase inflammation in the body. In addition they can lead to insulin resistance and weight gain. Having too much cold drinks weakens the digestive function and induces dampness, phlegm, and stagnated energy in the body as well.
(See also: How to Prevent 3 Common Illnesses that Children often get in School)
4. Vitamins & supplements
Additional supplementation is not necessary if your child eats healthily, enjoys a balanced diet daily, and is able to digest food well. Fresh food ingredients are the best sources of nutrients.
5. Review your child’s sleep
Children need to sleep early, and sleep enough. Between 3 and 5 years old, they require 11 to 13 hours of sleep per night. Children between 5 and 10 years old require 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night. Adequate quality and quantity of sleep allows the body to rest, repair and recover.
3 TCM tips to help children grow better
1. Consider paediatric tuina massage
Some parents consult TCM physicians when their child is down with a persistent cough, or prone to catching colds. In these cases, TCM paediatric tuina massage is usually performed. This all-natural external therapy massages and stimulates specific points, lines, surfaces in young babies, toddlers, and children to improve their growth development, and strengthen their immunity.
(See also: Paediatric Tuina can Improve your Child’s Immunity and Treat Common Childhood Problems)
2. Cook millet porridge with fresh Chinese yam
This helps to strengthen your child’s spleen-stomach digestive system, and can be taken by children aged 12 months and above.
1 cup of pearl rice
1 tablespoon of millet
200g of fresh Chinese yam (peeled and cut into small pieces)
10 cups of water
- Rinse the rice and millet, soak in water
- Cook the rice and millet with peeled pre-cut Chinese yam in the rice cooker for 1 hour till soft
- Serve warm
3. Brew them this appetite enhancement soup
This helps to boost the appetite and remove food stagnation in toddlers. It is suitable for children aged three years and above.
1 piece of aged tangerine peel
2 pieces of Chinese yam (dried)
5 piece of Solomon’s seal rhizome
1⁄4 cup (10g) each of lotus seeds, dried lily bulb, and dried longan
300g of chicken breast or pork spare ribs, or lion’s mane mushroom (vegetarian option)
- Rinse all herbs before use
- Blanch the meat before use
- Add 1.5L of water to a pot and put the herbs inside
- Bring to a boil on high heat before turning the heat low, and simmer for two hours.
- Serve warm
Jasmine Xie is a TCM Physician at EMW Physiotherapy & TCM. She graduated from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (BUCM) in 2012, and completed her Masters in Acupuncture, Tuina and Moxibustion under a scholarship awarded by Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC). She believes in natural holistic treatment approaches through acupuncture and herbal medicine to achieve a harmonious and balanced state in the body.
(See also: Help your Child Grow Tall (or taller) with Tian Qi and these Traditional Recipes)
Featured image: Tanaphong Toochinda on Unsplash