Nutrition Tips from a Pediatrician Mom

By: Dr. Florencia Segura

As we head back into the outdoors during the spring and summer seasons with longer and warmer days, this can be an excellent time for families to work
on establishing healthy eating habits.

5 Nutrition Tips from a Pediatrician Mom to kickstart your child’s health journey:

Vary food groups
Make an effort to have a variety of food groups in meals/snacks: 3-4 for meals and 2-3 for snacks. The food groups are fruits and vegetables, proteins (beef,
poultry, fish, eggs, beans, and soy), grains, dairy, and healthy fats.

Add color to your plate
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) encourage kids to eat five cups of fruits and vegetables daily. Why? Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of nutrients and fiber and promote
fullness after meals. Try to serve a fruit or vegetable at every meal and snack. Even if your child doesn’t eat them at first, frequent exposure to goal foods is the first step toward establishing new eating patterns.

Make a schedule for meals and snacks
Children thrive when there are routines around mealtime and snacks, especially if the food is nutritious, filling, and spaced throughout the day. Your child will be better able to regulate their appetite and
eating when on a schedule. A toddler should have a meal or snack every 2-3 hours during the day (due to their tiny tummies), and a school-age child should have a meal plan with a 3-4 hour window between meals and snacks.

Plan for sweets
Sweets and sugar are everywhere! As a parent, it almost seems like we are going from one sugary holiday to the next (Halloween, winter holidays, Valentine’s Day, Easter, etc.). Therefore, having a weekly plan for sweets is helpful, especially considering special occasions like birthday parties and
other celebrations. Knowing what the recommended sugar intake is as a helpful starting point. According to
the DGA, children under two should not eat foods with added sugar. The recommendation for older kids (2+) is 10% of the overall diet, which ends up being about six teaspoons (24 grams) per day or 1-2 small sweet treats daily.

Have family meals
Evidence of the importance of family meals to your growing family is overwhelming; impacting their growth, development, behavior, eating habits, grades, social adjustment, and body size. The weekdays can become very busy between parents’ work schedules
and children’s activities, so pick a couple of days during the week and weekend where you can all sit together and enjoy a meal – even if it’s takeout. Your
child will learn to explore food, try new recipes, and work on communication, but most importantly, feel your love and attention.

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