Healthy Food = Happy Child

A healthy diet actually begins in the womb, but it is built on throughout our lives. However, at no time is this more important than in childhood. 

With child nutritional consulting you understand early years nutrition and how to adopt healthy eating habits and diets.

While it can be more difficult for children raised on a primarily plant-based diet to reach all their nutritional requirements, it is possible, with the right knowledge. We can dive into vegetarian and vegan diets and the careful planning that must be applied when preparing these diets for children and breast-feeding mothers.

Learn about food allergies and other food-related issues in children, including what a food allergy is and how it is caused, the difference between a food allergy and food sensitivity or intolerance, and how to recognise and deal with food allergies in babies and older children, along with details on how to treat them.

As children grow, their nutritional requirements change, as does their ability to choose the foods they eat. 

I can guide you through each stage of a child’s life, explaining what they need, how to encourage them to make healthy food choices as they grow, and which “super foods” are child-friendly, along with some cooking ideas and recipes that incorporate these foods.

Also how to help children who become “picky eaters” and how to help children who have weight issues, whether they are overweight or underweight.

9 Must-Eat Nutrients for Your Child

Every parent has heard that children should be eating a “balanced diet.” But a balance of what? Here are the nine nutrients that every child should be getting on a daily basis:

1. Protein

Protein helps a child’s body build cells, break down food into energy, fight infection, and carry oxygen. Foods that contain high levels of protein include:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Dairy products

2. Carbohydrates

While the latest diet trend is to “cut the carbs,” carbohydrates are actually the body’s most important source of energy. They help a child’s body to use fat and protein for building and repairing tissue. Carbohydrates come in several different forms (sugars, starches, and fiber), but kids should be eating more of the starches and fibers and less of the sugar. Foods that contain high levels of carbohydrates include:

  • Breads
  • Cereals
  • Rice
  • Crackers
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes

3. Fats

Fats are a great source of energy for kids and are easily stored in a child’s body. They are also important in helping the body to properly use some of the other nutrients it needs. Foods that contain high levels of fats include:

  • Whole-milk dairy products
  • Cooking oils
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Nuts

4. Calcium

Calcium is essential in helping to build a child’s healthy bones and teeth. It’s also important for blood clotting and for nerve, muscle, and heart function. Foods that contain high levels of calcium include:

  • Milk
  • Cheeses
  • Yogurt
  • Ice cream
  • Egg yolks
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Tofu

5. Iron

Iron is necessary for a child to build healthy blood that carries oxygen to cells all over the body. Foods that contain high levels of iron include:

  • Red meats
  • Liver
  • Poultry
  • Shellfish
  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Iron-fortified cereals

6. Folate

Folate, necessary for soon-to-be moms, is also very important for kids. One of the B vitamins, folate is necessary for healthy growth and development of a child’s cells. Lack of this vitamin can cause anemia. Foods that contain high levels of folate include:

  • Whole-grain cereals
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Asparagus
  • Spinach
  • Black or kidney beans
  • Brussels sprouts

7. Fiber

Fiber helps produce bowel regularity in a child. It can also play a role in reducing the chances of heart disease and cancer later in life. Foods that contain high levels of fiber include:

  • Whole-grain cereals
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Kidney beans
  • Seeds
  • Nuts

8. Vitamin A

Vitamin A serves a variety of purposes in kids and adults. It helps growth, assists the eyes in adjusting to dim and bright lights, keeps skin healthy, and works to prevent infection. Foods that contain high levels of Vitamin A include:

  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Squash
  • Apricots
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Fish oils
  • Egg yolks

9. Vitamin C

Vitamin C does more than just fighting off the common cold. It also holds the body’s cells together, strengthens the walls of blood vessels, helps the body heal wounds, and is important for building strong bones and teeth. Foods that contain high levels of Vitamin C include:

  • Citrus fruits (such as oranges)
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Melons
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach
  • Papayas
  • Mangos

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Sources: The Nemours Foundation; National Network for Child Care; Meals That Heal for Babies, Toddlers, and Children; U.S. Food and Drug Administration

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child’s condition.

15 Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Better

A nutritionist (and mom of 7-year-old triplets!) gives tried-and-true tips for getting your kids to eat vegetables, drink milk, try new foods, and more.

Every single day, I deal with picky eaters both big and small. I’m the mother of 7-year-old triplets, all of whom have very different eating habits; I’m also a dietitian who teaches the professional athletes on the Chicago Bears and Chicago Bulls teams how to improve their diets. Although it’s tough to convince a towering basketball player or a 300-pound linebacker that junk food is bad for him, trying to get my kids to eat well can be even more of a challenge.

My daughter Kathleen has severe and life-threatening allergies to eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts, and Julia will not eat fresh fruit; luckily, my son, Marty, will try just about anything. Mothers constantly tell me that they feel guilty about their children’s diets; they know how important it is to feed their kids healthy foods, but they’re just not sure how to do it. Despite my own background in nutrition, I had to go through some trial and error with my triplets.

Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned, which should help you guide your kids to eat better.

1. Make a schedule

Children need to eat every three to four hours: three meals, two snacks, and lots of fluids. If you plan for these, your child’s diet will be much more balanced and he’ll be less cranky, because he won’t be famished. I put a cooler in the car when I’m out with my kids and keep it stocked with carrots, pretzels, yogurt, and water so we don’t have to rely on fast food.

2. Plan dinners

If thinking about a weekly menu is too daunting, start with two or three days at a time. A good dinner doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be balanced: whole-grain bread, rice, or pasta; a fruit or a vegetable; and a protein source like lean meat, cheese, or beans. I often make simple entree soups or Mexican chili ahead of time and then freeze it; at dinnertime, I heat it up and add whole-grain bread and a bowl of sliced apples or melon to round out the meal.

3. Don’t become a short-order cook

A few years ago, I got into a bad habit. I’d make two suppers—one that I knew the kids would like and one for my husband and me. It was exhausting. Now I prepare one meal for everybody and serve it family-style so the kids can pick and choose what they want. Children often mimic their parents’ behavior, so one of these days, they’ll eat most of the food I serve them.

4. Bite your tongue

As hard as this may be, try not to comment on what or how much your kids are eating. Be as neutral as possible. Remember, you’ve done your job as a parent by serving balanced meals; your kids are responsible for eating them. If you play food enforcer—saying things like “Eat your vegetables”—your child will only resist.

5. Introduce new foods slowly

 Children are new-food-phobic by nature. I tell my kids that their taste buds sometimes have to get used to a flavor before they’ll like the taste. A little hero worship can work wonders too. Marty refused to even try peas until I told him that Michael Jordan eats his to stay big and strong. Now Marty eats peas all the time. If you feel that your child isn’t getting enough nutrients or is behind on growth, discuss with your pediatrician the possible benefits of adding a nutrition shake to their eating schedule.

6. Dip it

If your kids won’t eat vegetables, experiment with condiments and dips. Kathleen tried her first vegetable when I served her a thinly cut carrot with some ranch salad dressing. My children also like ketchup, hummus, salsa, and yogurt-based dressing.

7. Make mornings count

Most families don’t eat enough fiber on a daily basis, and breakfast is an easy place to sneak it in. Look for high-fiber cereals for a quick fix. Or, do what I do and make up batches of whole-grain pancake and waffle batter that last all week. For a batch that serves five, sift together 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour, 4 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 2 tbsp. sugar. When you’re ready to cook, mix in 2 tbsp. ground flax meal, 2 cups water, 3 tbsp. canola oil, 1/4 tsp. vanilla, and 2 tbsp. applesauce.

8. Sneak in soy

Even if your kids don’t have milk allergies, soy milk, in moderation, is a terrific source of healthy phytochemicals. My kids don’t like soy milk but don’t notice when it’s hidden in a recipe. I use the low-fat, calcium-fortified kind in some recipes that call for milk, such as oatmeal, mashed potatoes, and sauces.

9. Sprinkle some sugar

 Julia eats her cooked carrots with a bit of brown sugar, and I mix a little root beer into her prune juice to make prune-juice soda. Kathleen and Marty like a sprinkle of sugar on their fruit. I know that they’ll eventually outgrow this need for extra sweetness, but in the meantime, they’re eating fruits and vegetables.

10. Get kids cooking

If your children become involved in choosing or preparing meals, they’ll be more interested in eating what they’ve created. Take them to the store, and let them choose produce for you. If they’re old enough, allow them to cut up vegetables and mix them into a salad. Although Julia refuses to eat fresh fruit, she and I make banana or apple muffins together—and she always eats them once they’re done.

11. Cut back on junk

Remember, you—not your kids—are in charge of the foods that enter the house. By having fewer junk foods around, you’ll force your children to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products.

12. Allow treats

Having less healthy foods occasionally keeps them from becoming forbidden—and thus even more appealing. We call candy, soda, and cookies “sometimes” foods. I generally buy only healthy cereals such as Cheerios and Raisin Bran, but I let my kids have sugary cereals when they visit their grandparents or when we’re on vacation. And I treat them to McDonald’s for lunch every so often.

13. Have fun

The more creative the meal is, the greater the variety of foods my kids eat. We make smiley-face pancakes and give food silly names. (Broccoli florets are “baby trees” or “dinosaur food.”) Anything mini is always a hit too. I often use cookie cutters to turn toast into hearts and stars, which the children love.

14. Be a role model

If you’re constantly on a diet or have erratic eating habits, your children will grow up thinking that this sort of behavior is normal. Be honest with yourself about the kinds of food messages you’re sending. Trust your body to tell you when you’re hungry and when you’re full, and your kids will learn to do the same.

15. Adjust your attitude

Realize that what your kids eat over time is what matters. Having popcorn at the movies or eating an ice-cream sundae are some of life’s real pleasures. As long as you balance these times with smart food choices and physical activity, your children will be fine.

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The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child’s condition.

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