FAQ on Child Nutrition

We all want to make sure our children are eating all the nutrition they need.  Read through this brief guide to help you and your children make great choices when they choose what to eat.

 MyPlate

 My plate was developed by the USDA in 2011 as recommendations to help us choose the appropriate ratio of different nutrients.  It shows that half the plate should be fruits and vegetables (with more vegetables than fruits), and the other half with grains and proteins. Dairy should be a smaller amount and is shown on the side as a cup. It is important to eat a variety of types of foods including: grains (mostly whole grains), proteins, vegetables, and fruits. They also recommend eating less added sugars, saturated fats and sodium.  The MyPlate website has great resources for kids of all ages and parents. It has games for kids that can help them learn about portion control and how to make healthy choices.

 

Healthy Eating

Healthy eating means children are getting a variety of foods from all the food groups (vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and proteins).   Parents do not need make their children ‘clean their plate’.   Also, parents should not use food as a reward.  For example, do not say they can have dessert if they eat all their dinner.  It is the child’s job to eat until they are full and the parent’s job to provide healthy options. 

One of the most important things parents can do is have family dinners. Eating as a family can help with communication and help children make healthy eating habits for life.  Having ‘media free meals’ where everyone puts away all their electronics can be extremely beneficial.

 

Multivitamin

Many parents ask if they should be giving their children a multivitamin.  The simple answer is most children who are growing well do not need a multivitamin.  Food is the best source of nutrients. Some kids that may need the extra vitamin include: children who are not growing as they should be (failure to thrive), have a chronic disease, food allergies, or have a restrictive diet (such as vegan). Talk to your child’s provider if you unsure your child is getting enough nutrients.  If your doctor recommends your child take a multivitamin be sure your child knows they are not candy, and look carefully at the label to be sure they are getting the nutrients your doctor recommends.

 

Calcium requirements

Calcium is an important nutrient for growth and development, especially bone growth. Inadequate calcium intake can put children at higher risk of broken bones, and bone problems as they age and into adulthood. Calcium intake is very important in preadolescents and adolescents; this is the time in your child’s life where bone building is imperative, as most bone growth for life happens at this age.  Getting approximately 1200-1500 mg of calcium per day is the current recommended guidelines for those 9-18 years old.  This can be challenging to achieve. Talk to your medical provider if you have concerns about the amount of calcium your child is getting, there are some circumstances where a calcium supplement may be recommended. Click on this link for the amounts of calcium in common foods, share this with your teens to help them learn to make healthy choices on their own. https://www.nof.org/patients/treatment/calciumvitamin-d/a-guide-to-calcium-rich-foods/

 

Nutrition Pearls by Age

 Infants

Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for infants under 6 months.  If that is not possible, formula is a great source of nutrition for infants.  Most babies start eating solids around 6 months old. They can continue to be breastfed until 12 months (and longer if you desire). Check out this link for more information about starting solids and talk to your doctor with any questions. (https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Switching-To-Solid-Foods.aspx ) It is important for babies to have plenty of healthy fats; healthy fats are very important for brain development.

 

Toddlers and Preschoolers

Toddlers and preschoolers grow in spurts, and their appetites follow. Sometimes they may eat a ton of food, and the next day they may eat barely anything. This is very normal and shouldn’t cause concern. They also may love a food one day and hate it the next, which can be very frustrating as a parent trying to prepare meals.   It is the parents job to provide a healthy selection of food for toddlers and the child’s job to decide how much to eat. Don’t force your children to eat or clean their plate. Ensuring you offer them healthy options is important as this is a time when parents have the most control over what their child eats.

 

School Age

This is the first time that kids have a bit more control and choices about what they choose to eat, especially as they go to school and are doing more activities away from their parents.. They are eating away from home much more often than before.  It is important to talk with kids about what they eat at lunch time, if you pack their lunch involve them in the process.

 

Teenagers

 Adolescents need more calories as they are growing and their bodies are changing so rapidly. During this time they also need more calcium, this is very important for their bone growth and bone disease later in life. This is also a time when teens are more aware of their bodies and weight and many may try to restrict calories. This can lead to eating disorders and other problems, be sure to pay attention to any changes in your child’s eating patterns. 

 

Many parents are worried about their child’s nutrition. Talk to your child’s doctor with any questions, they are here to help!  Well checks are a great time to bring up questions, but if you are concerned you can always make another appointment.

 

References

https://www.choosemyplate.gov/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/multivitamins/faq-20058310

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/104/5/1152

https://www.nof.org/patients/treatment/calciumvitamin-d/a-guide-to-calcium-rich-foods/

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Childhood-Nutrition.aspx

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Switching-To-Solid-Foods.aspx  

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