By, Cindy Baranoski, MS, RDN, LDN
Although March is National Nutrition Month, and March 11 is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day, every day of the year is a nutrition celebration.
We eat, drink, or are fed every day, throughout the day, in order for us to survive, grow and thrive. As adults we tend for forget just how important nutrition is for us, unless we are diagnosed with a nutrition related disease, such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer. For children, however, nutrition is the key ingredient in helping them grow and develop into the best they can be.
At Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, parents are learning more and more just how important nutrition is to their child at a very young age, and these parents are becoming very proactive in this area, to the benefit of everyone involved in their child’s world.
Most people have a difficult time even knowing where to begin. Nutrition is a degree that can be earned at all levels, including doctorate degrees. Although the detail and level of understanding to receive a degree is pretty huge, it doesn’t’ take a degree to provide good nutrition for yourself or your child.
How can you even begin to delve into this science of nutrition? Start by keeping it simple. The government has done a lot of research, and MyPlate is one of the easiest websites to find daily food plans, menus, recipes, tips for nutrition, videos, games and more.
MyPlate is the easiest way to know how much food to eat in a day for optimal nutrition. It’s divided into food groups, and one of the easiest tools on this site is the Daily Food Plan. Depending on your child’s age, or if you know a calorie level you are trying to aim for, it will give guidelines on how much to eat from each food group to achieve this goal.
Another resource on MyPlate, is SuperTracker. This resource is easy to use and you can put information into it for analysis of nutrition for you or anyone in your family. It’s not completely accurate, but it is helpful to determine how many calories, protein, vitamins and minerals were included in that diet.
Infants and Toddlers
If your child is an infant, there are limited tools available that tell you what they are supposed to eat or drink every day. However, if you go to Gerber you have an opportunity to access general information or create menus specific for your child.
Based on your child’s developmental level, they may need to only drink formula or breast milk, or they might be ready to start solid foods. Gerber’s website tools are helpful because they are based on development, and not necessarily ages. The website is geared for Gerber products, but the menu system can really be helpful to see 7 days of what your child could be eating or drinking, how many times in the day and how to keep their diet balanced.
Top Ten List For Nutrition for Children Over 1 Year of Age
- Keep your child on a schedule as much as possible.
- Do not allow your child to graze through the day. Most children eat 4-6 meals and snacks each day.
- If not an infant, offer three meals and 2-3 snacks a day, with 2-3 hours of time separating each of these eating times.
- Offer water between all meals and snacks.
- Ensure supported seating with mealtimes; the body should be at 90 degrees at the ankles, knees and hips. Be sure they
don’t fall to the sides in a chair – it should provide support in all directions. The table or tray of their chair should be at a level their shoulders are not too high up and fatigue.
- Offer a source of protein, vegetable, fruit, grain and dairy at each meal. If they are an infant, this is not a rule.
- Meals are for nutrition, snacks are for extra food or drink, or an opportunity to practice more challenging foods.
- Be sure your child is stooling each day. Stools should be soft, easy to pass. Urine should be clear or light in color and often through the day.
- A good indication your child is receiving enough to eat and drink in the day is how well they sleep at night.
- When in doubt, speak to your child’s doctor or consult with a dietitian with who has skills with children.
Find a Dietitian in your area at Eat Right.org.
For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit EasterSealsDFVR.org.