Ask The Expert with Ms Janice Cho: Feeding and Nutrition for Kids

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Do you remember what your morning meals were as kids, mamas? If you were like many of us, your breakfast options may have ranged from a daily cup of chocolate drink with buttered white toast, or sugar-ladened, colourful cereal- all marketed to be ‘great for kids’. With the rise of the information age and increased awareness surrounding nutrition, parents are now more concerned than ever before about how, when, where and what they should be feeding their kids. 

Ms. Janice Cho, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Founder of Fed To Flourish

We’re here to help you create a positive, healthy feeding environment for you and your kids! Our recent Ask The Expert session early this month had Ms. Janice Cho, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and founder of Fed To Flourish,  address our #makchicmumsquad’s concerns surrounding feeding and nutrition. Here are some key takeaways:

Common Issues 

From weight gain to eating habits, our expert covers a few challenges that parents often face. 

Why does my toddler gain weight so slowly, in spite of us ensuring that he eats balanced meals?

Growth can slow down after the first year of life, as toddlers become more mobile. Your child may be at a lower percentile, but that doesn’t mean he needs to catch up to his peers. Children will have growth spurts, periods of slower growth, and may not follow the growth curve perfectly. Look at the overall trend. If he’s eating well, active, and gaining weight over time, there’s no need to worry. If he’s losing weight, not gaining any weight, and has a hard time eating, there may be other factors that are worth looking into with a professional.

Here are some additional resources for understanding the growth curve and using it to track the growth of children with larger or smaller bodies.

How does watching TV at mealtimes affect kids’ eating habits? Any tips for weaning them off the screen during meals? 

Pros: It can ease anxiety around trying new foods for some kids, and can also create a calmer and more enjoyable eating environment for your child and the rest of the family.

Cons: Children can have a harder time recognising when their body is full or when they are hungry, which can lead to overeating or undereating, further down the line.

Tips for transitioning to screen-free meal times

  1. Schedule opportunities for your child to be physically active before sitting down for a meal.
  2. Serve foods that your kids actually enjoy eating.
  3. Work on one thing at a time. Save those difficult conversation topics for another time.
  4. Start gradually. Begin with 5 minutes and  slowly increase the time. If you need to take a step back, that’s okay. You can always start tomorrow.

Quantity and Quality  

If you’re a parent who often worries that your kids are overeating or undereating, you can relax. Cho recommends letting your child decide how much to eat. She shares what our job as parents are instead, and helpful ways of offering our children a variety of foods that they will enjoy eating. 

How much should a 6 to 8-year-old child be eating for dinner?

It depends! In general, let your child decide how much to eat. It may seem like they’re “overeating” at times, and they may refuse to eat at other times. Giving them the ability to decide allows them to listen to their hunger cues, and sets the stage for a healthy relationship with food down the road. Everybody is different, and there is no ideal size. Our job, as parents, is to provide foods that the child is able to eat, regular opportunities to eat, and a safe environment for them to eat.

Read about how your family can use the Division of Responsibility in your home.

My child is a picky eater and is not keen on unfamiliar foods/ foods with different textures/ vegetables. How do I ensure they’re eating enough, and what can I do to diversify their meals?

Picky eating is common among toddlers and is usually a phase they will outgrow. Trust your child to tell you how much is enough. For some kids, selective eating may be more concerning. It’s probably a good idea to talk to a professional if your child:

  • is eating less than 20 different foods;
  • is really particular about the type, texture or colour of the food;
  • has frequent, intense meltdowns when it comes to  meal times; or
  • is not gaining weight or is losing weight.

In either of these cases, the best thing you can do as a parent is to avoid pressuring them around mealtimes. Don’t bribe, shame or force them to eat. The more we can avoid pressuring them around food, the less anxious they will be about trying new foods.

You could also read this article to see if feeding therapy might be appropriate.

My husband and I are both vegetarian, and I don’t know if my 9-year-old daughter is getting enough nutrients from being one as well. We do take dairy and eggs. Any tips?

Make sure to offer your child a variety of foods that she enjoys eating. These vegan peanut butter protein balls are a hit with my kids. Tofu, tempeh, dairy and eggs are a good source of protein, calcium, and Vitamin B12. If your daughter is eating a variety of foods and growing appropriately, then she’s probably meeting her nutrient requirements. If she becomes more selective with intake and refuses foods that you provide, it could be a good idea to have a nutritional assessment done. In either case, what you can do as parents is to model the enjoyment of food!

Medical Needs

If you have kids who are have been diagnosed with developmental delay, things may seem a little bit more complicated. Cho shares about feeding disorders and helpful snack ideas to consider. 

My son was diagnosed with a feeding disorder. He stopped eating at 2 years old and is currently attending therapy. What else can we do as parents? He’s not making any progress and he’ll be 6 years old this year.

If he’s growing, that’s considered progress. For kids with feeding disorders, learning to eat new foods can take many years, and they may never grow to like certain foods. Be careful not to pressure him into eating. Continue to enjoy the foods that you like to eat. When he watches you eat different foods, that counts as exposure, even if he’s not eating it himself. Lastly, find ways to accommodate his needs. To make sure he’s adequately nourished with the foods that he can eat, you might consider multivitamins, fortified foods – or even desserts!

Could you suggest some snack ideas for a 1-year-old baby diagnosed with GDD (Global Development Delay)?

Yogurt comes in different textures and variations to accommodate your child’s needs and preferences. Eggs, avocado, or peanut butter on toast are good sources of fat and iron for early brain development. Crackers and cereals are good options to take on the go, especially if your child prefers more texture. Consider your child’s oral motor function and sensory differences when choosing what foods to serve. Children with GDD may become more restrictive as they get older. Try not to pressure them with food. This can lead to more resistance and can be traumatic for kids who have sensory differences.

And that’s a wrap! We wish our #makchicmumsquad a positive feeding journey, with healthy and strong kids through it all.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this site, or through links to other sites, is not a substitute for medical or professional care, and you should not use the information in place of a visit, consultation or the advice of your doctor or other healthcare provider. makchic is not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any other information, services or product you obtain through this site.

Elaine is a mummy of two who moved from the financial world to become an early childhood educator. She loves travelling, books and her cup of tea to unwind after a long day of diapers, school runs and pretend play.