I know, it's hard to be a parent. I made many of the mistakes listed below and I am a nurse. But hey, no handbook so we do the best we can. I share this with you not to emphasize what we as parents do "wrong". But rather, to debunk many of the myths we have in our mind about nutrition. Dr. Joanna Dolgoff , does a good job of providing guidance and answering the WHY IS THIS NOT A GOOD OPTION during an abc interview. I like that. I learned a few things.
Okay, here goes....(drumroll please)TOP TEN PARENT MISTAKES:
1) Parents panic if children do not eat three meals a day. Many parents of toddlers consider their children "picky eaters" because they seem to eat very little, especially at mealtimes. But most toddlers do not eat three meals a day- usually they eat one "good" meal and then pick the rest of the day.
2) Parents overestimate how much their children should be eating at each meal. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a good guideline is that a toddler portion size should equal about a quarter of an adult portion size.
3) Parents give up too easily when a child resists a healthy food. Infants and children are often resistant to new foods and will grimace when first introduced to something new. Keep offering the same foods repeatedly and the child is likely to accept them. Studies indicate that it often takes 5-10 experiences with a food before some children will accept them. Children are programmed to like sugary, high fat foods but often must be TAUGHT to like healthy foods. So don't give up too early.
4) Parents model unhealthy eating habits. It is important to be consistent and "practice what you preach". You cannot constantly eat chips and then expect your child not to. This goes for Dad and for any siblings, regardless of their weight. The entire family needs to practice healthy eating habits. Everybody's health will benefit from a healthy diet and nobody should be eating chips and cupcakes on a regular basis.
5) Parents often rely on "fast" foods and typical toddler meals just to get their child to eat. Parents often fall into the trap of always serving chicken nuggets, pizza, and French fries because they know their child will eat them. Do not take the easy way out. Insist that your children learn to eat healthier fare.
6) Parents keep junk food in the house. If a food is in the house, children will eat it. Clear your house of junk food and offer only healthy options. Then, let your child choose whatever they want to eat (from the available choices). There is no need to have chips and candy in the house; these foods should be special treats.
7) Parents allow children to decide what they want to eat. A child can decide when to eat but the parent decides what the child eats. Parents must not allow children to make the rules. A child will not become ill if he/she misses a meal or two. If your child refuses to eat the healthy food that you serve, you should wrap it up and wait. Sooner or later he/she will be hungry and will eat it. Make it clear that your child does not make the rules- you do! Just make sure to pick a healthy food that your child usually enjoys.
8) Parents allow children to eat in front of the TV. Children eat many more calories when they are distracted by the television. Ideally, meals should be a time for the family to relax and enjoy. Turn the TV off, clear away all the toys and books, and sit at a table (not in front of the TV). Encourage family conversation.
9) Parents are not fully aware of what their children are eating each day. There was a time when families sat down to eat a home-cooked meal every night. Nowadays, both parents often work and everybody is rushing from activity to activity. Sometimes, children are left to prepare their own meals. Very few children will make healthy choices when left to their own devices. It is crucial that somebody is monitoring what the children are eating.
10) Parents encourage their children to drink juice. As a pediatrician, I am constantly asked at what age a child should be introduced to juice. I tell parents that a child should be introduced to juice in the same way he/she is introduced to chocolate- as late as possible, in small doses, and as a treat- not a diet staple. It is a very common misconception that juice is healthy. It is not. Juice is loaded with calories and sugar. It usually has some vitamin C- but children do not lack vitamin C- they get sufficient amounts from other foods. Juice is certainly not as healthy as a piece of fruit. It is much higher in sugar and not a good source of fiber. Drinking too much juice may induce a child to develop a preference for sweet drinks. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends less than 6 oz of juice a day for children under 6 and 12 oz of juice a day for children age 7-18.
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