When you’ve got young kids sometimes the dinner table (or kitchen or school lunchbox) can feel like a war zone. We’ve all heard of the fussy eaters who will only eat fish fingers, throw tantrums at the hint of a broccoli floret or will only tolerate potato when in chip form (and drowned in tomato sauce).
Getting kids to eat properly can be even harder when they have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Food is an essential part of your child’s health, wellbeing and social life. With a bit of creative thinking and open communication, you can help them manage their IBD and maintain a positive relationship with food (and maybe even let them have their cake and eat it too).
Keep food fun
For food to be appealing, it needs to taste and look good. Take the humble (and much maligned) Brussels sprout as an example. For years they’ve been served up boiled, soggy and greyish – they just look unappetising. Taking the extra effort to ‘dress up’ healthy, ‘boring’ or IBD-friendly foods can make them much more appealing, putting the fun back into meal times. With our Brussels sprout example, this might mean a dash of honey, a drizzle of lemon juice and cooking them only until they are bright green (to maintain a bit of crunch and avoid the soggy grey texture). They’ll look great and taste even better too!.
With a bit of creative presentation and selective flavourings (think vanilla powder, honey, cinnamon, garlic and herbs) you can make healthy food feel (and taste) like a treat. Try it the next time you pack your child’s lunch box. If they’re having fruit, maybe present it like a kebab on a skewer. Yoghurt could look like a sundae or parfait (accompanied by stewed fruit which is easier on the tummy). A salad sandwich could be made to look like a traffic light or clown. The fun ‘looks good, tastes great’ principle is especially important at school to stop kids with IBD feeling like their diet makes them miss out on interesting foods. Put the principle to the test and watch them clean out their lunch box.
Your child’s life is likely to be full of school trips, birthday parties and exciting family adventures. Unfortunately these kinds of events are all but guaranteed to feature problem foods for people with IBD. Letting teachers and other parents know about your child’s condition will help raise the level of awareness and give them practical solutions to help your hungry child. Provide them with a help sheet that lists ‘safe’ foods, emergency instructions and the answers to some IBD FAQs. That way, parents and teachers can ensure there are IBD-friendly options available for your child when they’re throwing a birthday party or hosting an excursion – meaning all your child has to do is turn up and have fun!
Unlike other kids, when a child with IBD doesn’t feel like finishing everything on their plate, it can often be because their digestive system simply isn’t up to the task. This can make it hard to try and maintain a sense of discipline at the dinner table, but the simple fact is that their condition makes them feel this way, not a desire to misbehave. Be prepared to have dinners rejected and plates occasionally left full. The best advice we can offer is to talk it through with them. Instead of getting frustrated when yet another meal is turned down, ask them why they don’t feel like eating and what else they’ve consumed that day. This dialogue will let them know you’re listening and may even help identify previously unknown trigger foods.
Date: 22/09/2014 IRIS number AU-REM0328