Is my child eating enough food? That’s a normal question that many parents have asked themselves. I know I have.
My oldest two are on the very lean side of the scale, and I’m often reminded by our pediatrician to “feed them more.” Seriously.
Each week, I receive dozens of e-mails from the MOMables community wondering how to feed their picky eaters more fruit, more veggies, and overall a healthier variety of foods. In addition, many parents wonder if their child is getting enough nutrition.
I felt that I should let my friend Christina, who is a registered dietitian and licensed dietitian nutritionist, answer this question. I’m thankful for her expertise and her ability to answer this question well.
When I first started working in pediatric nutrition, I was young. I taught countless parents to serve healthy nourishing food that they wanted their children to eat, period. How tough could that really be, right? Fast-forward 6 years later, and I’m the mother of three awesome boys, ages 5, 3 ½, and 11 months, and it can be emotionally hard to stand firm on sending them to bed hungry if they chose to scoff at the dinner I made that night. Getting your kids to eat healthy food is not as easy as I once thought.
At times, children can seem like they don’t eat anything, only eat junk, or eat the exact same thing over and over. Luckily, kids are resilient and are often eating better than it appears. For some peace of mind while you’re working hard at instilling healthy habits, there are a couple ways to track your child’s nutritional status:
This is the simplest way to ensure that your child is at least eating enough food. At well-checks, weights and lengths are obtained for the growth chart. Whether your child is a little one at the fifth percentile or is going strong on the seventy-fifth percentile, what’s most important is that they find their own curve and stick with it. The percentile where your child plots in one specific month is not as important as their overall trend. For example, if your toddler has always been on the 40% and begins to decline to the 30%, then the 25%, this could be a clue that your child just isn’t getting enough. If you feel that you’re seeing a drop in their curve or have any concerns overall, talk to your pediatrician about your concerns.
Food Record with a Nutritional Analysis
If you’re still not feeling quite comfortable with your child’s intake or are more concerned with the overall quality, a nutritional analysis is a great tool to unearth any potential deficiencies. First, write down everything your child eats and drinks for at least three days if not a full week. The more detailed you are with the type of food, the brand, and the portion size, the better your analysis. Pair up with a registered dietitian to analyze the food record and compare it to the recommended daily allowance for your child’s age. The dietitian can then help you determine which foods to increase in the diet and realistic ways to include them so that your child will actually eat.
Outside of the above two strategies, check out your child’s plate on a regular basis. If they’re consuming a variety of colorful foods (purple grapes, red apples, orange sweet potatoes), having meals and snacks every 3 to 5 hours while awake, and drinking water in place of sugar-loaded juices/sodas, you and your child are on the right track. Forge ahead!
And of course, if you need ideas of how to introduce a variety of foods, you are in the right place! MOMables can help you do that.
Christina Fitzgerald, MS, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian and licensed dietitian nutritionist, is the owner of Nourished, Nutrition, and Wellness, nourishedliving.com. She lives with her husband and three young sons in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.