Ask a Nutritionist: Your Questions Answered
Kids and nutrition
Kids and nutrition
Q. I'm not actively dieting, but I do often go for low fat or non fat versions of different foods (especially flavored yogurt and soda). BUT I'm not sure whether I should be feeding this stuff to my kids, considering the chemicals and artificial junk in them.
A. That is a good point. Children do need slightly more fat in their diet than adults. This is rarely an issue, though, since Western diets tend to be too high in fat (and sugar).
I would not give your children the "diet" versions of foods such as yogurt, soft drinks, cookies, etc. Better to teach them to eat moderate portions of the "real thing."
I, for one, would rather have a couple of "real" chocolate chip cookies over 3 or 4 of the nontasting "diet" variety.
Q. My child loves candy and I'm trying to find a healthy substitute that is similar in smell and taste but without all the sugar. I don't want to feed her jubejubes or fruit candies because it's too hard on her stomach. Any ideas?
A. Candy is also hard on the teeth and replaces other more nutritious foods in the diet.
While your daughter may not be happy with you now, she may thank you later for not letting her have too much candy.
I tell kids that fresh fruit is "nature's candy." Sweet and juicy and also full of nutrients!
Candy really should be an "occasional" food, not a reward for every time a child behaves properly. Here in the U.S., we have a terrible problem with school teachers handing out candy as a reward all day.
Q. My daughter has always been above average in weight but the doctor keeps reassuring me that it isn't anything to worry about. My daughter LOVES dairy products and eats cheese like it's candy. She doesn't want to eat anything else. I'm really concerned. Any advice would be appreciated.
A. I think you are correct to be concerned. We used to always think that young children automatically "outgrow" a weight problem but that is not necessarily true. It is NEVER appropriate to put a preschooler on a diet but you can steer her towards more healthful eating habits and more active play (make sure it is fun).
I would limit the amount of cheese that your daughter is consuming and offer other choices instead. While cheese is a nutritious choice, it is also very high in fat, saturated fat, and calories. Small portions are fine but not unlimited amounts. Also, eating cheese maybe filling your daughter up so she is not hungry for other foods.
Try getting her involved in choosing fruits and vegetables at the store, or even the farmer's market. Involve her in washing, peeling, etc. and sit down with her to have a snack.
Also, 2 (8 oz.) cups of 1% or skim milk each day is all your daughter needs. After this, encourage her to drink water when she is thirsty.
Q. My three-year-old loves to eat bread, crackers, cookies, pasta and isn't big on protein. Is this a concern at his age? Any suggestions for how to include more protein?
A. It's very common for young children to dislike the texture of meat and prefer carbohydrate-rich foods. It's also important to begin to teach your child that many different foods are needed to help his body grow strong and healthy.
You may want to try some non-meat protein foods to see if they are better accepted by your pre-schooler. Some examples include cooked beans, scrambled egg chunks, or tofu chunks. In addition, dairy products are also a good source of protein so yogurt, milk and small chunks of cheese are also good choices. Your child may be more willing to eat meat if it is soft and in small chunks. For instance, ground meat in the spaghetti sauce or small pieces of soft chicken or (bone-free) fish may work.
With preschoolers, it's important to offer a variety of foods from all the food groups, set a good example by eating with your child, and maintain your patience. It often takes 10 or more exposures to new foods for a child to even take the first bite. Forcing your child to eat is counterproductive.
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