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Is your child eating enough?

If you feel like your answer is no, you’re not alone. This is a common concern among moms, as we know that food plays an important role in the growth and development of children. So where do we begin? First, we need calories. However, not only do we need “calories”, but also nutrient dense calories. Nutrient density refers to the overall amount of whole grains, fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, etc. found in foods. For instance, you can have the same amount of calories on two different breakfast foods, such as a doughnut versus whole wheat bread and eggs. However, both breakfast options have a very different composition of added sugars, types of fats, fiber, and vitamins. Try to add more nutrient dense calories, rather than just calories. Seek to nourish your child.

The easiest way to increase the calorie density of a meal is through the addition of healthy fats. This means keeping the volume the same, but adding more energy per bite. Try to add the following to your meals:

  1. Nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pine nuts)
  2. Seeds (sunflower, chia, flax, hemp)
  3. Nut butters
  4. Avocado
  5. Unsaturated oils (extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil) 

For instance, you could add a teaspoon of oil to your child’s rice. Use spreads like hummus, avocado or nut butters on your sandwiches and toasts. Sprinkle your smoothies and yogurt bowls with seeds.  

You can also increase protein and calories by using dairy. For instance, prepare your child’s oatmeal with milk instead of water. Add yogurt as a topping on pancakes. Sprinkle cheese on veggies. 

Additionally, try to offer small, frequent meals. Offer food often, without pressure, every 2 to 3 hours. This will increase the chances of intake. Also, make sure that your child is not drinking liquids just before or during meals, as this might make him/her feel full quicker. Provide liquids only at the end of a meal. 

Next, limit distractions during meal times. Make sure that the TV is off, and avoid toys and pets at the dinner table. Your child should stay on the table during meals and focus on the food. 

Finally, be a role model. If your child sees you eating, he/she is more likely to try to eat, as children usually model their parents behaviors. Be patient, and you will see the new eating habits develop over time.

Monitor your child's nutrition with Little Lunches! Keep track of their eating habits and ensure they're getting all the nourishment they need. Download the app today and be a proactive parent!

By Vivian Castillo, MS, RD, CNSC

1 year ago