Pediatric Nutrition: Building Healthy Eating Habits with Your Pediatrician’s Help
Sometimes, getting our kids to eat healthy foods can be very frustrating! When they see greens, they’ll throw tantrums or make random excuses not to eat them. And, the greener or more plant-looking it is, the harder it takes to convince them to eat.
Getting your kids to eat healthy food may feel like a never-ending uphill battle. But don’t feel like it’s the end of the world! We at Omega Pediatrics will discuss building healthy eating habits for your kids. Child nutrition is very important, so don’t give up just yet.
Moreso, don’t just throw out all your efforts only to give them fast food and sweets at the end of the day!
The Importance Of Nutrition In Child Development
As parents, we’re sure you know how important nutrition is –no matter your age. But, it is more important for a child. It’s because children are developing, and we want them to grow up to be healthy and strong.
Also, good nutrition that starts at a young age helps build a lifelong foundation for healthy eating habits. Your child's nutritional knowledge can be passed from generation to generation, helping avoid diseases altogether.
Benefits Of Healthy Eating
Healthy eating in kids and teens is important for their growth and development. Healthy eating also helps prevent health conditions your children might catch in later life.
How Would You Describe a Healthy Diet for Children?
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a healthy diet includes these components for your kid over two years old:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Protein (seafood, lean meat, eggs, legumes)
- Whole grains
- Dairy products (low-fat, fat-free, or lactose-free)
Also, avoid calories from solid fats. These refer to saturated and trans fatty acids. Sodium intake must be reduced and added sugar must be avoided.
What Happens When My Child Doesn’t Get Enough Nutrients?
A child who doesn’t get enough nutrients will not have the proper growth and development they deserve. They may have:
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Weak immune systems
- Increased risks of common childhood diseases
How Your Pediatrician Can Support Healthy Eating
A pediatrician knows what’s best for your child. The doctor helps with what action to take by recommending which foods and vitamins to take. They also recommend lifestyle practices for your child to develop into a happy, healthy individual!
Proper Food Intake
No matter your age, it’s vital to consume foods and beverages packed with nutrients. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), kids should be consuming these amounts of calories per day for proper growth:
- 2-3 Years Old
Female: 1000 calories
Male: 1000 calories
- 4-8 Years Old
Female: 1200-1400 calories
Male: 1200-1400 calories
- 9-13 Years Old
Female: 1400-1600 calories
Male: 1600-2000 calories
- 14-18 Years Old
Female: 1800 calories
Male: 2000-2400 calories
Another important reminder is never let your kid skip breakfast. Breakfast gives the energy for the day. While it sounds contrasting, eating breakfast regularly also decreases the chances of obesity in children, according to studies.
What Your Kids Should Avoid Eating
For a healthier diet, your kid should avoid eating salty, sugary, and fatty food, such as:
- Refined grains
- Added sugars
- Saturated fat (lard, butter, margarine)
- Solid fat
- Processed food (pizza, chips, crackers)
- Sugary food and drinks (cookies, cake, soft drinks)
We know it might be hard for your child to avoid eating these. You can allow them to eat these but in moderate amounts.
7 Tips For Addressing Picky Eating
You might be struggling to feed your kids healthy food. But, just to make you feel better, did you know that picky eating is normal? Picky eating is a normal stage among toddlers.
Here’s a parent guide on addressing those picky eaters and avert your kid’s tantrums!
1. Be a good example to your kids.
You are the biggest influence on your kids. Thus, it’s important that you also embody the healthy eating habits that you want your children to have. Aside from healthy meals, you can implement effective strategies during mealtime.
- Eat together as a family.
- Eat meals at the proper time.
- Serve the same food for the whole family.
- Remove all media distractions such as phones and tablets
2. Don’t engage in food fights.
If your kid doesn’t want to eat, don’t get mad! There are reasons for your child’s actions. For instance, he has eaten a heavy breakfast. So, he doesn’t want to eat another big meal for lunch.
The bottom line is never pressure your children to eat. This may only lead to a negative impact, making them despise the food even more. Moreso, don’t punish them as well.
3. Spice them up!
Adding spices to healthy food can change the overall taste of a dish. Add herbs and spices to your child’s meal to make it appetizing. In this way, you help your child explore new tastes, flavors, and textures in food!
If your kid doesn’t like it, make the same dish again but with different spices. Who knows? He might like it this time!
To minimize waste, prepare small amounts of the dish, especially if it’s the first time you’re introducing it to your kid.
4. Let your kids prepare their meals.
Let your kids participate in the food preparation. Bring them when shopping at the grocery. Let them choose which fruits and vegetables to include in tonight’s menu.
After shopping, let them watch while you cook. Over time, teach them how to cook as well. For sure they can handle some sauteeing and stirring! If cooking isn’t possible, let them read cookbooks for kids, and ask which recipe your child wants to try!
5. Work your way through small upgrades.
There are a lot of food varieties that are related to each other. Nutritionists call this technique ‘food bridges” which introduces a food item similar to what your child already eats. These food items could be similar in flavor, color, or texture.
If your child loves mashed potatoes, then you can move to pumpkin pie, mashed carrots, and actual carrots in the future!
6. Pair liked and unfamiliar foods together.
If you have a hard time introducing new foods or re-introduce disliked foods, you can pair them with food that your kids like. An example is pairing cheese with broccoli. You can also try pairing eggs with bitter gourd.
The rule of thumb is to pair bitter or sour with sweet and salty, so your kid’s taste buds will be balanced.
7. Do not bribe your children!
Though tempting as it sounds, don’t bribe your kids to eat food. Looks like an effective way to let your children eat, but it doesn’t work long-term. Prizes are what they look after, not the food. With constant bribing, you let them feel that eating ‘disliked’ foods is unpleasant.
Establishing Lifelong Healthy Eating Habits
Eating healthy food during your child’s formative years goes a long way. It helps lessen the chances of developing diseases such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity. It establishes lifelong healthy habits that can be passed on to later generations.
On top of it all, healthy living gives your child a happy life.
A healthy eating lifestyle starts at home.
Set a good example for your kids in practicing a healthy eating lifestyle. Start by buying, preparing, and eating healthy food only. With such, you are letting your kid know that this is the right way to eat —the healthy way!
Consider this helpful guide to establishing a healthy diet for everyone in the family:
- Buy cereals that have low or no added sugar content.
- Buy beans, peas, lentils, and other legumes.
- Buy salmon, shrimp, and tuna.
- Get milk that is low-fat or nondairy (lactose-free).
- Replace refined grains with whole grains.
- Include red, orange, and green fruits and veggies.
- Read the nutrition facts and get snacks filled with potassium, calcium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D
Food Preparation and Cooking Tips
- Use canola or olive oil instead of margarine or butter.
- Bake, steam, or roast foods rather than fry.
- Avoid too much salt when cooking.
- Half of your kid’s plate should consist of fruits and vegetables.
- Do not put in oversized chunks of food.
- Have sliced fruits and vegetables ready on the table for easy snacks.
Healthy Parents, Healthy Kids
A parent that eats healthy will have a child that eats healthy!
When building healthy eating habits for your kids, you play a big role in their lifestyle. You’re the one your kids see the most, so be a good example. Sooner or later, they’ll adapt to the habits that you do.
Therefore, ensure to serve and expose them to the right food while you also consume the same healthy food!
If you’re having trouble with your picky eater, it’s best to consult your child’s pediatrician for proper healthy eating guidance. You may not realize, your picky eater toddler will be a healthy, active kid in no time.
We at Omega Pediatrics are your partner in raising healthy-eating kids. We will gladly work with you for your child’s nutrition as the key to their growth and development.
Omega Pediatrics cares for your child’s needs, even after office hours. We are open until nine in the evening, so if your child has health concerns, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with us. Walk-ins are also available.