Kids Corner – FAQs

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How much fat should a baby consume? Mother’s milk is about 50% fats. Children should eat a diet with 50% of calories from fat until they are two years old, at which time their diet should be reduced to a maximum of 20% of calories from fat thereafter.

How much food should a baby consume? If your baby begins consuming solid foods as early as 4 months of age, as little as ½ teaspoon may be sufficient. This seems like a very small amount, but babies are fascinated with new foods, and much of the food ends up on the floor, all over the face and everywhere but the mouth. Fortunately, this is a passing phase.

By 6 months of age, a baby will begin consuming larger amounts of food. 1-4 tablespoons is appropriate for 6-9 month-olds; for 9-12 month-old babies, 3-6 tablespoons of food will be consumed at each meal or snack. There are no hard and fast rules about how much food your baby should be eating – every baby is different and appetites can vary from day to day.

How much protein do babies need? Babies grow very quickly. Therefore, during the first year of life, they need 3 times as much protein per pound of body weight as adults do. For babies 0-6 months old, calculate grams of protein needed by multiplying pounds of body weight times 1; for 6-12 month olds, multiply times 0.9.

How important is it to purchase organic foods? According to research conducted by the U.S. Environmental Working Group in 1995 to measure the amounts of pesticides in baby foods manufactured by Heinz, Beech Nut and Gerber, 16 pesticides were detected, including 8 possible cancer promoters, 8 that affect brain function, and 5 that interfere with the hormonal system.

Babies eat more fruits, vegetables, juices and other possible pesticide containing foods as a percentage of weight than the average adult does. And, their gastrointestinal system is more easily penetrated, making it easier to retain more of a toxin. Therefore, to the extent that you are able, purchasing organic foods is best, at least during the first few months of life.

Additionally, studies consistently show that organic foods contain higher levels of some nutrients than non-organic foods. According to the Camden Food and Drink Association, organic potatoes contain 26% more zinc, organic tomatoes contain 17.5% more Vitamin C and 15% more Vitamin A, and organic apples contain 11% more Vitamin C than their non-organic counterparts.

When should a baby start drinking water? Introducing water at an early age is the best way to insure that your child will drink water and remain properly hydrated later. The first liquid introduced after breast milk or formula should be water. The water should be filtered, since, as was mentioned earlier, babies have more capacity to store chemicals and toxins than adults and tap water contains chlorine and other chemicals.

Make sure that babies do not consume water immediately before eating, as it may adversely affect their appetite.

Can vegetarian babies be assured of getting enough protein and other nutrients? Absolutely. In fact, studies show that vegetarian children on a healthy diet grow and develop quite normally. You will need to pay attention to making sure that there are adequate calories and fat in the diet. Vegetarian foods tend to be high in fiber, which can fill up the stomach of a baby or toddler and can prevent the consumption of enough calories. Nut butters and foods like avocadoes and tofu should be included in the diet because they contain more calories and fat.

Does my child need vitamins? If your toddler is eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and grains, vitamin supplementation should not be necessary.

Should I allow my toddler to eat sweets? This is a personal decision. The reality is that sooner or later, your child is going to be introduced to candy, cookies and other unhealthy foods. The goal is to teach your child how to eat a proper diet, not to enforce deprivation. Furthermore, too much attention paid to the issue of forbidding sweets may backfire, as your child may decide that anything that is that ‘bad’ must indeed be wonderful and worth obtaining at any cost!

Birthday parties and other special occasions are the most likely places for your child to first be served cakes, cookies, etc. Small amounts of these foods, on special days, are okay. However, you must be careful, if you are determined to maintain a healthy diet for your child, that you do not allow this type of food to ‘creep’ into your child’s diet and occupy a major part of his food intake. This may mean talking with day care workers, grandparents, etc., and making your wishes known, in addition to carefully controlling the food you allow in your own home.

What do I do if my child continually asks for sweets? It is not unusual for children to ask for more sweets, processed foods once they are exposed to them. It is best to maintain your resolve to keep these foods out of your home and to maintain their status as treats. Therefore when your child asks for something sweet, offer dried or fresh fruit, natural cereals, or other foods that are regularly a part of your household diet. If your child declines, you can assume that she is not really hungry.

Sometimes it appears that my child is not hungry. Is this normal? Absolutely. The appetite of a toddler varies from day to day. Also, children grow more slowly between the ages of 1 and 3, so it is normal for food consumption to be reduced somewhat. Another factor is that children often do not feel like eating when they are teething.

Don’t create stress by trying to get your child to eat if he really is not hungry. However, if the child refuses to eat for a long period of time, or you feel something is wrong, consult with your pediatrician immediately.

My child goes to day care three days per week. What do I do about the food served there? Schedule a visit with the Director or owner of the center your child attends and inquire about the food that is offered to children. If it is awful, explain that you will be providing food that your child should be served while at daycare.

If you encounter resistance, find another center. Remember you are the client and you have the right to be just as concerned about the food that your child eats as you are about the children your child spends time with and the activities she is engaged in while at daycare.

If you are lucky, the director may be interested in knowing more about healthy eating and your lifestyle, and be open to changing the food that is served in the center. If so, recommend Wellness Forum Health programming, a visit with the Wellness Forum Health center in your area, or reviewing this and other books and tapes available through Wellness Forum Health.

My toddler has not been eating healthy foods, and I want to change that. What if he doesn’t like them? You will get the least amount of resistance to new foods during the time between the ages of 10 months and 3 years of age. If you are trying to change the diet after habits are established, it is normal for children to refuse new foods and to test your resolve.

You may get more cooperation by offering new foods in conjunction with familiar ones. For example, you might include a new vegetable in a familiar soup or casserole. Also, it may take several exposures over a period of time to gain acceptance for a new food.

Remember that your child’s eating habits were developed over a period of time, and they will usually not change overnight. Be patient and stick with it. And, remember how important nutrition is for your child’s future.

My child often does not eat at mealtime. Is there a problem? There are several reasons why a child may not eat at mealtime. One is lack of hunger. Examine your feeding schedule. Are snacks eaten too close to dinnertime? Another can be the consumption of too much water or high-fiber foods.

Children often do not eat because they are too tired to eat. The need for sleep always supercedes the need for food. Perhaps your child needs quiet time before meals or a longer nap.

Pay attention to when your child does appear to be hungry. Appetites do not always conform to adults’ eating patterns.

My child does not have a history of eating healthy foods and I want to change our family’s eating habits. I am getting a lot of resistance. What should I do? This is a very important issue. Many parents are faced with ‘cleaning up’ bad eating habits resulting from lack of knowledge of how to establish good ones when their children were younger.

First, you will need to do this through a process of substitution. Eliminating foods without providing alternatives is a recipe for disaster.

Second, you are going to have to make a firm commitment to stick with your plan regardless of the resistance you get from your child. Just as you will not allow a teenager to stay out all night, no matter how unpopular your decision, you must decide that your child’s health is important and that you will be making better decisions about what he eats. I firmly believe it is important for parents to be in charge.

Set a date by which there will be no more ‘bad’ food in your house. If these foods are not available they will not be consumed. Stick with your decision.

Begin offering a choice between 2 healthy alternatives. For example, you might present an apple or a banana as snack options. If your child chooses neither, then you may assume he is not hungry. If your child suggests a candy bar instead, you can respond by saying “We don’t have any candy bars here – we only have fruit for snacks. Now, would you like a banana or an apple?”

If you are consistent, eventually, your child will figure out that candy is no longer an option for a snack and begin to choose from your healthier options. If you give in, you will have to repeat the process again and again until your child knows that the rules have changed permanently.

At dinnertime, serve healthy entrees. Although you will want to show some consideration for likes and dislikes (if your child hates kidney beans, for example, you can avoid those and serve other types of beans instead), serve what you have learned is a healthy meal and let your child decide whether or not to eat. If your child does not choose to eat, don’t force him or her. However, if the child is hungry later and asks for food, offer the leftover dinner. If he still refuses, that’s okay. Do not offer another option. You do not want to give your child the idea that refusing to eat dinner is a way to get the foods he wants to eat. Remember, you are in charge!

My child doesn’t like vegetables. What should I do? Continue serving them, and experiment with various ways of preparing them. For example, your child may not like cooked carrots, but will eat them raw. Or, you may find that providing chopped vegetables with hummus promotes more vegetable eating.

“Health by deception” is also effective. In other words, “package” foods your child doesn’t like in foods that are generally well-accepted. You can add small amounts of peas and corn to chicken noodle soup, for example. Or combine small portions of vegetables in mashed potatoes.

Again, continue to present vegetables as a staple of the diet, and do not offer to replace them with other foods. It can take a long time, but tastes can and do change.

One very important tool for parents that have difficulty in getting their children to consume enough vegetables is Juice Plus gummies or chewables. Although they taste like candy, the product contains 17 ripe, raw fruits, vegetables and grains and can be very helpful in increasing plant food intake without the child’s knowledge.

My children often visit their grandparents and they insist on feeding them fried chicken and other unhealthy foods. This is a difficult issue. But, as I have said before, you must remember that you are the parent. Do not allow grandparents and other well-meaning relatives and friends to ‘love your children to death’ by feeding them unhealthy foods.

If your parents were taking your children out for rides in the car without fastening their seat belts or using appropriate car seats, you would see to it that this behavior stopped before you would allow more visits, correct? You can take the same stance with food. Explain your views on proper food and what you expect when your children are in their care. Compromising a little can help. For example, one unhealthy meal may be allowed if the rest of the food is okay. And, grandparents like to spoil children with candy and ice cream treats. Occasionally, this is all right. But it cannot and should not become an important part of the diet.

Offer to provide food while your child is visiting his grandparents. Sometimes grandparents don’t know what to serve in place of unhealthy foods.

Suggest that your child’s grandparents read this book, or attend Wellness Forum classes in order to understand why you have made the decisions you have made about food and health.

My parents/in-laws insist that a vegetarian diet is not appropriate or safe for my children. It is normal for people to be concerned about the health and welfare of their grandchildren, and to be suspicious of anything ‘new’. However, a vegetarian or near-vegetarian diet is very safe and healthful – in fact – safer than the Standard American Diet that most children eat!

Studies consistently show that vegetarian children are not malnourished:

  • A study of children at the Farm, a vegetarian community in Tennessee where no animal products, including cow’s milk, are consumed, showed no significant differences in height and weight from average U.S. children.
  • Researchers at Loma Linda University conducted a 2-year study of 2,272 children between the ages of 6 and 18, comparing the heights and weights of Seventh Day Adventist schoolchildren to public schoolchildren (about half of Seventh Day Adventists are vegetarian and the meat eaters consume considerably less meat than the general population). There was no significant difference in height between the girls, but the Adventists boys were 1.6 centimeters taller than their peers on average. Both boys and girls were found to be leaner than the public schoolchildren.

My child is a picky eater. Some children are picky eaters because they have had little exposure to a variety of foods. Others display this behavior to let you know that they do not want to change their eating habits. They are hoping that refusal to eat healthy foods will force you to give them what they want.

I cannot emphasize this enough – serve a variety of healthy foods consistently and your child will learn to eat them. Of course, there are going to be some foods your child doesn’t like. This is normal and I don’t believe in forcing a child to eat scalloped potatoes if she genuinely doesn’t like them. But there is a difference between acknowledging normal likes and dislikes and allowing your child to live on junk or very few foods for an extended period of time. Remember, you are the parent!

My child only wants to eat unhealthy foods. Stop providing these foods, and cut off the supply from other sources. When a parent tells me that her child only wants to eat Fruit Loops and potato chips, I ask where the child is getting the food. Most 6-year olds do not go grocery shopping, which means adults are responsible for providing the food. STOP!

My child often doesn’t finish his dinner. There are 2 reasons why a child may not finish his food. The portions may be too big. If this is the case, cut back on the amount of food you serve and allow your child to ask for seconds if necessary.

The other reason is the child is making a statement about the food. He would rather have something else to eat, etc. If this is the reason, do not force the child to eat or turn mealtimes into nightmares. Simply remove the plate from the table and save it for later in the event that the child indicates he is hungry. Do not be manipulated into serving different or unhealthy foods, or providing desserts and sweets later. A child will not be harmed by going to bed hungry a few times and will soon learn to eat the dinner that is served.

The lunches at school are horrible. This is why it is necessary for you to pack your child’s lunch. See the questions on school lunches

What should I do when my child plays at other children’s houses? Again, remember who is in charge of your child’s welfare and health. Talk with the parent who is home supervising the play activities and explain your family’s eating habits. Offer to provide snacks or meals for the children yourself.

Some compromise may be necessary in order to keep your child from being isolated, but under no circumstances should your child be able to consume large amounts of unhealthy food at other people’s houses on a regular basis.

This is an analogy that might help you. If your child was allergic to a particular food, you would make sure that everyone feeding your child would know about that so as to avoid disaster. You would certainly make sure that your child was aware of the food allergy and the consequences of consuming that food. Eating junk is no different – you can make your child aware of the consequences and instill in her a desire to take proper care of herself, and you can insist that those who are entrusted with her care show the same respect.

My former spouse doesn’t agree that healthy foods are important. This is a common form of disagreement between divorced parents, and how to handle it varies depending on your relationship with your ex.

If you are on good terms, you should sit down to discuss this issue and arrive at a compromise that satisfies both of you and keeps the best interest of your child in mind.

If you are not on good terms, this might be a good opportunity to make the first move toward working together to do what is best for your children. I always encourage parents to put their differences aside in order to work together to take proper care of their children. This may mean ‘giving in’ or a feeling of losing control, but your child’s future is much more important than your ego!

If negotiation is not a possibility, you will have to do the best you can by making sure that your child eats healthy food when he is with you. Without putting down the other parent, explain why you provide the foods you do and how important it is to pay attention to good health. If your child asks why they are allowed to eat certain foods at your ex’s house, do not say negative things about your ex! Instead, state that ‘daddy/mommy doesn’t know any better now but is doing the best they can’.

Many people confuse food and love. A weekend parent, trying to gain favor with a child in the short amount of time they have, may think they are ‘buying influence’ by providing unhealthy foods that are not available at your house. This issue also comes up with lack of discipline – a weekend parent can be wary of disciplining a child, thinking the child won’t like him or her if they are forced to behave in a certain way.

The reverse is actually true, however. The best way to show love to your child is to provide healthy foods, and to insist on proper behavior and responsibility in a loving environment. Your child innately knows this, even though it may seem that she gravitates to the parent that is the most permissive. Many a parent has found that in the process of trying to make their child ‘like’ them, that they have lost the respect of the child and had to regain it!

Sooner or later, children figure out what is going on. Often they start asking for healthy foods. They may start to notice the difference in how they feel while on a junk food diet at one parent’s house vs. at yours. They may notice differences in your health vs. your ex’s.

And, I have seen instances where an ex-spouse develops an interest in improving her diet by learning from her children. Miracles do happen!

My child has a weight problem. I don’t want to make her feel self-conscious, but I want to motivate her to lose weight. It is important that you not make your child self-conscious if he has a weight problem. However, do not make the mistake of thinking that the problem will go away, either.

First, examine the reasons why your child’s weight may be high. Are the portions you are serving at mealtime too large? Is your child eating too much junk food? Are you allowing too much snacking? Too many second helpings? Is your child sedentary?

Once you have assessed the reasons why your child has a weight problem, you can begin to change the diet and exercise patterns, which should result in weight loss. You don’t need to draw much attention to what you are doing. Simply put less food on the dinner plate, for example. Or cut out evening snacks while watching television or doing homework. Ask your child to join you for bike rides or walking. Studies consistently show that kids of active parents are substantially more likely to be active as adults than children of sedentary parents.

If your child’s weight does not begin to change within a reasonable period of time, consult with your pediatrician to determine if there are other factors contributing to the problem.

My child is attending college and living in a dorm. How can he maintain a healthy diet when the food in the dorm is so bad? Actually dormitory food is getting a little better, with some colleges serving more vegetarian fare. Hopefully by the time your child leaves home to go to school, he will have learned how to pick the best alternatives in a cafeteria or restaurant setting.

Most college students are allowed to have a refrigerator and other appliances in their rooms. When you move your child into the dorm, find out where the nearest store is that sells fresh produce.

Provide ‘care packages’ from home containing foods that may not be readily available near the university.

Since breakfast is such an important meal and healthy breakfast food is usually lacking in a dormitory, set up the dorm room to make a proper breakfast smoothie in the morning. Blenders and coffee grinders don’t take up much room.

What do we do at holiday times when we eat with family members that do not make healthy eating a priority? It is highly unlikely that you are going to convince all of your relatives to prepare healthy food for your next holiday celebration. If some family members are approachable, in terms of changing the menu, then discuss it with them. If not, you are going to have to work around the ‘bad’ food. In any case, it might be a good idea to make sure that those in charge of the food know how you and your children will be eating at your gathering.

One easy solution is to offer to bring part of the meal. Most hosts are appreciative of any help in terms of food preparation, and this way you can make sure that there are some healthy selections available. Be sure to choose dishes that not only your children like, but that most others like as well. Your children are obviously more likely to eat the foods you bring if they like them a lot. Also, you may make progress with the rest of the family by practicing ‘health by deception’ – serving something absolutely delicious, but healthy, that they do not know is healthy!

Discuss the situation with your children in advance, reminding them that not everyone eats the way that you do, but emphasizing why you make the choices you make. Compromise can be an important part of holiday survival. Allowing children to have a couple of their favorite things as a treat, while eating the healthier foods you bring is one way to compromise. This should be talked about in advance of the holiday gathering so as to avoid conflict, and putting relatives ‘in the middle’.

Praise your children for making good choices when presented with unhealthy foods. This will make it easier and more likely for them to continue to do so.

What do I do about Halloween? I remember getting a call from a client one year who was worried because, in spite of the fact that the family’s eating habits had changed so much for the better, her children were sick.

As we talked, we discovered what the problem was – her children had gone out for Beggar’s Night and had been eating candy every day for the last few days. No wonder they were sick – their immune systems were compromised from the constant ingestion of sugar!

Most parents will not take the unpopular stand of forbidding children to go out Trick-or-Treating. If your children are really young, however, you may be able to organize a Beggar’s Night for them with a few other households whose philosophies are in line with yours. Most small children aren’t up for visiting more than a few houses anyway, and this way you can control the treats they get.

If your children are too old to be restricted in this way, allow them to gather their candy, let them choose a few favorite pieces to eat for a day or two, and GET RID OF THE REST. Your child does not need to be bombarded by sugar for weeks after Beggar’s Night! (It probably isn’t such a good idea for you to have it around either!)

My child wants to have other children over to play. What should I serve them? I remember getting a call from a client one year who was worried because, in spite of the fact that the family’s eating habits had changed so much for the better, her children were sick.

I have a standing rule in my house – when you visit my home, you eat the type of food that I eat. It’s not that I am not considerate of guests – I make every effort to serve foods that tend to be universally appealing, and save some of the ‘higher risk’ foods for when my vegetarian friends visit.

When children visit your home, serve them the foods your children are accustomed to eating. Fruit, healthy cookies, pretzels and frozen fruit juice treats are usually liked by all kids. You may get some of your child’s friends interested in healthy eating (it has happened for many of my clients), and seeing their friends enjoying the foods you serve will reinforce the fact that healthy food tastes good.