How Can Pediatric Dietitian Help Your Child And You?

How Can Pediatric Dietitian Help Your Child And You?
A lifetime of good nutrition and health should start when a child is born. Attention to a child’s nutritional needs from birth through age 18 is essential since early nutrition sets the stage for a person’s eating habits when they are older. Because children grow rapidly, it can be vital for them to follow good nutritional habits.

Early Nutritional Needs

A child’s weight will usually get three times more within his first year of life. Without the food and nutrition he needs, his growth and development could be hampered. Without the proper amounts of carbohydrates in the diet, the muscles, brain, central nervous system, and liver could suffer. If a child doesn’t receive enough protein in their diet, it could cause a failure to grow and decrease muscle mass. Fats are also crucial in a child’s diet, not because the body cannot function properly without the right amount of essential fatty acids but because a child needs fat as an energy source.

It is also important to develop good eating habits early in life to avoid problems with obesity. Some children also have special dietary needs due to metabolism problems or food allergies, even when they are babies. By identifying and treating these issues early through proper nutrition, parents can lessen the chances of more serious problems developing later in life.

Proper Nutrition as a Child Grows

Although many people think of pediatric nutrition as being focused on babies, it also focuses on the nutritional needs from the time they are born through age 18. As a child grows, they will go through many dietary transitions as they try new foods. Children can also go through phases to become “picky eaters,” which can be challenging for parents. Although the best practice is allowing a child’s appetite to dictate their food intake in many cases, there also needs to be a continual vigilance against obesity.

There are special dietary challenges as a child enters adolescence, especially since teens often develop a sense of their body image during this stage. Suppose a teen starts restricting their food intake too much to lose weight or stay thin. In that case, they could become deficient in nutrients or even develop a dangerous eating disorder such as anorexia.

The Role of a Pediatric Dietician

Pediatric dieticians are trained to work with children from birth through age 18 to ensure that they need the nutrition to grow and develop properly. They are clinical dieticians specializing in the needs of children. Pediatric dieticians often work closely with doctors, school health systems, clinics, hospitals, and government agencies. Doctors often refer children to a pediatric dietician as part of a treatment plan for a child with food allergies, eating disorders, or any condition where a child’s diet factors into the equation.

Services Provided by a Pediatric Dietician

A pediatric dietician can evaluate a child’s needs and develop a nutritional program that will fit his exact requirements, taking into account any health conditions or special circumstances that might exist. They often work with children and teenagers with food allergy issues to find dietary programs that fit their restrictions while providing adequate nutrition.

They can help children deal with eating disorders, usually working in conjunction with a physician or counselor. They also help children and teenagers who have issues with obesity, allowing them to lose weight safely while ensuring that their diet contains all the nutrients their growing bodies require.

In the case of children under the age of 18, working with a pediatric dietician is preferred over working with a general nutritionist, even though they might have similar dietary experience because a pediatric dietician will better understand the needs of children.

How Can You Help Your Child?

Suppose you are trying to help your child to lose weight and want to do it safely. Maybe it’s not the best approach to put your child on a diet. Even for an adult, it’s a challenge to be on a diet that requires a mental ability to think that it’s right for you and your body.

Please be introduced to what’s been shown to work in scientific studies by Dan Kirshenbaum, Ph.D., an obesity expert, and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University.

The idea of the studies is to help an overweight child by small changes to your family’s diet and the most important, lifestyle to make it healthier for everyone in your family. Below, the steps are based on guidelines developed by experts from CDC, the Health Resources and Service Administration, and the American Medical Association that 15 other professional organizations also reviewed.

  • For kids who still have a lot of growing to do, aim to maintain your child’s weight rather than lose weight. It will allow your young overweight child to grow into their weight. It is not suggested to cut calories in raising children to drop pounds unless advised by your child’s health care provider.
  • Help the whole family practice a healthier lifestyle. Begin with yourself – be a cheerleader for your family. Try to keep it fun, enjoyable, and positive. Then create a co-cheerleader, for instance, your mate or your child, to assist you to keep up your family’s motivation. If you can provide positive energy on your own, it’s great, but the more, the better.
  • Create a family tradition – eat at the table. Try to find time to eat together at the table at least five or six times per week. Even it’s tempting to eat in front of the TV. A study proved that kids who ate most of their meals with their family members were less likely to be overweight.
  • Vegetables and fruits – Focus and track many servings of vegetables and fruits your overweight child eats. You may set an ultimate goal that your child eat five or more servings a day. How to encourage your overweight child to eat vegetables and fruits? Make them more visible. For instance, put apples and oranges in a bowl on the table or put washed, cut, bite-sized vegetables with a healthy dip on a plate covered with clear plastic wrap in the fridge.
  • Probably the hardest one – try to eliminate sugared beverages such as soda, sports drinks, and fruit punch. It will take some time to get out of the habit of having sugary drinks every day. From the beginning, it’s easy to switch to three a day for a week instead of four sugary drinks a day. Then cut back to two drinks, and so on. A good transition is to have each family member start every meal with a glass of water.
  • 100% juice – limit how often your family drinks it. Why? There are more vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients than soft drinks. But this juice contains a lot of sugar and often just as many calories as sodas. Limit it to no more than a single serving per day, like 8 ounces for you and older kids and only 6 ounces for young kids.
  • Make sure your child eats breakfast every day. If there is no time to cook breakfast, choose items to eat on the run. It can be peanut butter on toast. If your child doesn’t like the taste of foods served at breakfast, any healthy option will do. It doesn’t have to be breakfast food.
  • Cut down the TV/Internet to less than two hours a day. Decrease TV/Internet time and increase physical activity time. To motivate your overweight child, have her/his make a list of activities she/he enjoys and can do instead of screen time.
  • Increase your child’s daily physical activity. The goal is to have your overweight child be physically active for at least one hour a day. Create little ways to get him moving throughout the day, such as squats or knee raises while brushing his teeth or jumping jacks during commercials while watching a morning cartoon.
  • Cook more at home and become restaurant savvy. When you prepare more meals at home, you can control what you put in food, how much sugar you use, and use healthier ingredients. When you have a meal at a restaurant, help your family make healthy choices. Maybe you should skip the bread before the meal or start with a salad or vegetable appetizer. It’s always better to choose foods cooked in their most natural states, such as grilled chicken instead of chicken nuggets. And if you ordered a dessert – share it!

And if you think after three to six months, those changes are not enough to help your overweight child maintain weight as he grows, it is time to get help from a pediatric dietician. He may offer other options to help, including more structured, medically supervised programs designed for your child. Even though you talk to your child’s dietitian to obtain goals or safe guidance on an ideal/target weight, choose one or two steps and work your way gradually into a healthier lifestyle.

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