When it comes to nutrition, we all have a lot of questions. There is a lot of information – often conflicting information – about what it means to eat healthy as an adult, not to mention all the advice parents get about childhood and teen nutrition. Pediatric Associates of Northern Colorado wants to make it simple. In today’s article, we’re here to answer some of your top questions about healthy eating for kids! Read on to learn more, and schedule a checkup with your child’s pediatrician for more personalized nutrition advice.
When Should I Introduce Solids?
For most babies, you can introduce solid foods around 4 months of age. You can start with just about anything, but keep it simple and soft with small portions. You can mix it up more after 6 months, but don’t start decreasing the amount of formula or breast milk you feed your baby until they are about 9 months old.
How Do I Introduce New Foods to My Baby?
You can introduce new foods to your baby as single ingredients about once a day every three to five days. Once you have introduced a few new ingredients, you can start combining them together, such as adding sweet potato puree to rice or oat meal. Remember that many babies don’t develop the motor coordination to “pinch” individual items until they are about 9 months old, so stick with foods they can eat by scooping it up with their hands or squeezing it out of a pouch.
How Much Food Does My Child Need?
Rather than counting calories on behalf of your child, it’s best to let them dictate how much they want to eat and when they are full. Most kids do well eating three meals and two snacks like their parents, and you can look up appropriate portion sizes for kids online for pictures and references. As long as you schedule regular visits to your local children’s health clinic, your pediatrician will keep you informed if child is not gaining enough weight or gaining too much.
What Are Some “Immune Boosting” Foods to Try?
“Super foods” can be a good way to keep your child healthy and happy. Most kids get plenty of important vitamins and minerals from the foods they eat every day as part of a well-rounded diet, but if you’re looking to be more intentional about their meals and snacks during flu or allergy season, here are a few foods to try:
- Nuts and seeds
- Yogurt and probiotic supplements
- Citrus fruits
- Nut butters
- Whole grains
How Do I Encourage Healthy Eating?
Kids, especially toddlers, can be picky eaters, which can make it hard to encourage them to partake in a balanced diet. One of the best ways to get them to eat fruits and vegetables is to set an example with what you eat and get them involved in the process of meal planning, grocery shopping, and preparation. For older kids, explain to them why healthy eating is so important. For younger kids, tempt them into eating healthy foods with dips like yogurt, peanut butter, or ranch. While we don’t recommend “hiding” nutritious foods, you can easily add ingredients to dishes kids love, like smoothies or spaghetti.
How Do I Handle Overeating?
First of all, talk to your pediatric provider if you’re concerned about overeating or excessive weight gain. If your pediatrician shares your concern, then you can talk about specific actions you can take. Those actions may include having a conversation about what’s healthy, being more mindful about the portion sizes you serve, and setting an example with your own eating. You should never use the term “diet” with young kids or “ban” any specific foods. You also shouldn’t force your child to eat everything that is on their plate, even if you think you have offered reasonable portions, because it can lead or contribute to disordered eating.
How Much Protein Is Enough?
Many parents are worried about how much protein their child is getting, especially if their child doesn’t eat meat. In most cases, your child is getting more than enough protein in their diet! The general rule of thumb for how much protein someone needs is one gram per two pounds of bodyweight. For the average 4 year old, that’s about 20 grams of protein, and a single portion of meat includes about 7 grams.
What Are Some Vegetarian and Vegan Protein Options for Kids?
Meat is a great source of protein, iron, and other nutrients, but it is by no means the only source of those nutrients. If your child follows a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, they can get protein from foods like:
- Nut butters
- Dairy products
Should I Give My Child a Multivitamin?
Most kids get the vitamins and minerals they need from the foods they eat. It’s better to get important nutrients naturally from food, but if your child avoids a food group like dairy or their pediatrician is concerned about a deficiency, you may want to consider a multivitamin. Adding nutritional supplements in most cases won’t hurt them, since many vitamins are water soluble. Iron, however, can linger in your child’s body, so be mindful about adding any iron supplements to their diet.
Are Big Changes in Appetite Normal?
In younger kids, yes, it is very normal for them to eat a lot one day and nibble the next. They are self-regulating, which is great! In older kids, however, if you are seeing changes in appetite aside from a decline when they are sick or otherwise feeling under the weather, then you should talk to their healthcare provider.
We hope today’s article alleviates some of your fears about childhood nutrition and offers guidance for how to keep them healthy. If you have any questions, you can contact Pediatric Associates of Northern Colorado, and schedule an appointment to address any concerns you may have about weight, growth, or development. We’re here for you! Call today to get started, and keep an eye on this blog for more in-depth advice on healthy habits for kids in future posts!