For children and adults alike, what you eat plays an incredibly large role in your overall health. But kids have their own unique set of nutritional needs, and as a parent, your goal is not only to give them the healthy food they need today, but also to teach them how to eat healthy when they become independent, too. There are countless sources of pediatric nutrition advice floating around, but not all of these sources are correct or reliable. To answer your questions and guide you in your efforts to keep your kids healthy, our board-certified pediatricians at Children’s Wellness Center are responding to some of the most common childhood nutrition myths that you may have heard.
Myth #1: When you start introducing your baby to solid foods, begin with vegetables rather than fruits, because the baby will be less likely to develop a “sweet tooth.”
If only it were that easy to prevent your child from ever craving unhealthy foods! In reality, it doesn’t matter in what order you introduce your child to fruits, vegetables, and grains. But when introducing your baby to solid foods, we do recommend that you begin by introducing one single food at a time, and waiting three days before switching to another single new food, and continuing in this manner until your child has tried at least ten individual foods. This will allow you to keep an eye out for reactions and to know which food caused it if it does happen.
Myth #2: Growing children need all the calories they can get, and any baby weight will be lost in puberty.
Childhood obesity has, sadly, become an epidemic in our country. While it’s true that kids need plenty of nutrients because of the many changes their bodies are going through, it’s crucial that they get them from the right sources to maintain a healthy weight for kids, like produce and healthy meats rather than processed foods and “junk food.” At Children’s Wellness Center, we measure your child’s body mass index (BMI) at every well-child visit starting at age two, and can offer you guidance about whether your child’s weight is healthy and any changes you may need to make.
Myth #3: Breast milk and formula do not have enough protein for babies, so you need to supplement it with pureed meat.
Fortunately, formula and breast milk both contain as much protein as your infant needs. We typically recommend starting to introduce other sources of protein, like meat, beans, cottage cheese, and yogurt, at around 8-9 months of age, after your child has already become familiar with solid foods.
Myth #4: If it looks like my child is overweight, I should put them on a calorie-restricted diet.
Because children need all types of nutrients for their unique development, it’s not a good idea to self-diagnose your child as overweight or obese, or to design a weight loss diet yourself. If you aren’t sure whether your child’s weight is healthy, schedule a Well-Child Visit at Children’s Wellness Center, and we will be happy to evaluate your child’s health to determine what changes (if any) should be made to his or her diet and exercise regimen.
Myth #5: Babies should always remain on breast milk and/or formula until they are six months old.
While six months is a common age for infants to be ready to start trying purees, it’s all a matter of your baby’s individual development. As a general rule of thumb, your child is probably ready to start with purees when he/she can sit in a high chair and keep his/her head up independently. If your child starts to open his/her mouth when others are eating nearby, reach for others’ food, or get hungry more often, it may be time. In some babies, this happens closer to four or five months. Ultimately, because this timeline varies so much from baby to baby, you should speak with your pediatrician for more information. But don’t force your infant to pick up purees too quickly. If you try it and your baby doesn’t seem ready, simply wait a week or two and then try again.
Myth #6: My kids don’t need to eat or drink Vitamin D because they’re getting as much as they need from the sun.
The importance of Vitamin D is highly underestimated, especially when it comes to kids. So as a parent, if your child is no longer on formula or breastfeeding, you should be sure to incorporate Vitamin D-rich foods and drinks like fortified milk and yogurt, as well as eggs, canned tuna, salmon, and fortified cereals. And remember, too much sun exposure can also have plenty of health risks, so it’s best to apply sunscreen every time your child goes outside, rather than intentionally exposing your kids to the sun to produce Vitamin D. For more information, read up on sunscreen safety tips for kids.
Myth #7: If my child is a picky eater, I just need to wait for him/her to grow out of it.
In many cases, “food defiance” is a phase that kids outgrow, but sometimes the bad habits can stick around, and as a parent, you just need to know what tricks to try. First of all, lead by example so that your child can see you getting a balanced and varied diet. Children also tend to want to eat what is on their parents’ plates, so this is a great way to get them to try new foods, too. Second, help your children get excited by and interested in food by letting them help you cook. And finally, try mixing in the foods you want them to eat (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.) with foods they already like, such as peanut butter, yogurt, and more.
Every stage of your child’s life comes with a new set of nutritional requirements, and we certainly understand how difficult it can be to keep tabs on it all, especially when you have multiple kids who are in different age groups. But our providers at Children’s Wellness Center are always here to help and to answer your questions. To talk more about how to give your child the best nutrition you can, call Children’s Wellness Center or schedule an appointment for your child. Plus, for more pediatric health and safety tips, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.