Eating Problems in Foster Children
When a young person comes into foster care it is often difficult to imagine what hardships they have endured. One difficulty that your foster child could be facing, due to a range of abuse or neglect, is bad eating habits. As a foster carer you may struggle to encourage your foster child to eat, or it can be the complete opposite and you may even struggle to ensure your foster child doesn’t overeat. This is because children who have not been fed regularly or consistently may develop a survival mentality towards food – feeling there isn’t enough or that it won’t be there next time.
Here are some suggestions for addressing eating problems in foster children:
- Offer a variety of foods and stick with simple dishes. Start with foods familiar to the child or basis to all children.
- Ask the child about his favourite meals or invite him to help you choose a dish when shopping.
- Make meal time as pleasant as you can – keep it short and as least stressful as possible.
- Make sure that you monitor weight and growth, especially in young children and pay attention to the child’s cues of whether he is getting enough to eat.
- Plan regular, consistent meals so children begin to develop a rhythm and a trust that they will be cared for.
- Offer healthy snacks throughout the day. Some families have a snack drawer or shelf accessible for children throughout the day and fill it with snacks such as raisins, nuts and fruit.
- Don’t use food as a punishment. Don’t send a child to bed without supper or deny a child food because of misbehaviour. Use food and meals as a vehicle to help establish care, trust and safety for a child.
Whatever challenges you are facing, a paramount consideration should be to provide a healthy diet to your foster child.
One in three children leaves primary school overweight or obese, putting them at significantly greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes later in life. Poor diet is the nation’s biggest premature killer, ahead of smoking and drinking, and costs the NHS around £6bn a year.
About half of all primary school pupils take a packed lunch to school. Researchers found that only 1 in 5 lunchboxes contained any vegetables or salad, while 52%-60% contained too many sweet and savoury snacks, or sugary drinks (42%), leading to high levels of saturated fat, sugar and salt and not enough minerals and vitamins.
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