5 Unfounded Fears of Feeding Children (And When Parents Really Need to Worry)
My husband laughs at me when I have to start a sentence with, "So... I have this friend that I know in real life..." lol, but Maryann Jacobson, Registered Dietitian and author of the fabulous blog, Raise Healthy Eaters, is someone I know in real life! And she is as lovely as you can imagine. Now, Maryann has just co-authored a book titled Fearless Feeding, that she's offered to one of Super Healthy Kids Readers as a giveaway. (see the end for details!) This is a guest post from the expert herself, Maryann!
From the day children come into the world, uncertainty about nutrition can consume even the most put-together new parent. Are they getting enough? Are they are eating too much? This fear only intensifies over time as children turn picky, don't put the cookies down or eat in a way that makes parents uncomfortable.
As a family nutrition expert, I have found that parents often worry about the wrong things due to a lack of preparation and support with feeding. Straight from my new book, Fearless Feeding, I'm listing the 5 things parents can take of their "worry list" along with red flags that indicate that there might actually be a problem.
1) My Kid is a Picky Eater! Becoming more selective with food choices is actually a normal part of a child's development, peaking between the ages to 2 and 6. Growth slows at this time, decreasing appetites of little ones. There is no need to worry if growth is fine and a child eats from most food groups. It is also normal for young children to skip a meal here and there, as eating is erratic during this stage.
When to worry: Signs that your child is a problem feeder are eating less than 20 foods, frequent gagging, poor growth and tantrums around new food. Consult your pediatrician if this happens.
2) Obesity Runs in My Family: The childhood obesity epidemic has many parents fearful when obesity runs in their family. Although there is a genetic component to excess weight, genes have not changed much since obesity has become an issue. That means that while some people are more susceptible to weight issues, what and how children are fed, regular physical activity and good sleep are the most important factors.
When to worry: A child who sneaks food, binge eats or has accelerated growth (i.e., jumping 2 percentile lines on the growth chart), may be problematic. If these problems occur see a pediatric dietitian that addresses both what and how children are fed.
3) My Child Doesn't Eat Vegetables: Studies show that about 70% of young children are more apt to taste bitter compounds in veggies, which is why vegetables are often shunned. The good news is that children don't have to eat lots of vegetables to meet their nutritional needs. A varied fruit intake can make up for a low veggie intake until little one's taste buds come around (keep offering!).
When to worry: Children who skip whole food groups like protein (nuts/nut butters/beans/lean meat), fruits and vegetables, dairy, grains or healthy fats may be missing out on key nutrients and may benefit from supplementation. If you are concerned, see a pediatric dietitian or Fearless Feeding for trouble shooting your child's nutritional needs at each stage.
4) My Child Thinks She is Fat/Skinny/Looks Funny: Most parents are surprised when their child starts to comment on her body size and shape. Yet body image concerns are normal during the school-age years when children begin to compare their bodies to friends and unrealistic media images. Most kids just need to be reminded that they are normal and to value the body they have.
When to worry: A child who has significant changes in weight or eating habits, skips meals, follows extreme diets or partakes in excessive exercise should get help ASAP as these are risk factors for an eating disorder.
5) Everyone's Giving My Child Junk Food: Many parents get frustrated with outside influences, including food from grandmas or at school or birthday parties. Yet research shows a child's most important food environment is the home, with parents being vital "food role models.” In fact, research by Brian Wansink shows that the nutritional gatekeeper of the home (the person who buys and prepares food) influences 72% of what the family eats.
When to worry: If your child is fed by someone else a majority of the time, make sure the person understands and shares your same values about food and feeding.
It's all too easy for normal feeding challenges to become long-term problems when parents don't have the right information, tools and strategies at their disposal.
What worries you most about feeding your child?
BOOK GIVEAWAY- Closed- Congratulations to Shannon B!!
Maryann and Jill's new book, Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School, not only helps parents anticipate feeding challenges, but guides them on how to handle them successfully. For a chance to win a copy of her book, answer the above question (what worries you most about feeding your child?) in the comments.