What is the young eater like in your family? Recently, I was able to speak to registered dietitian Julie Feldman from her home in Michigan concerning our kids’ nutrition. Feldman explained that each child has his or her own engine, or metabolism. Some are slower to rev-up and use calories, while others are always revved up, ready to go and burn calories right away. “I hate it when the chunky kiddo gets blamed for eating all the fast food and the skinnier ones are praised for eating healthy. It’s about metabolism,” said Feldman.
One way to support your child’s metabolism, whether it resembles a jalopy or a sports car, is to make sure that engine is refueled every 3 to 4 hours, advised Feldman. It may be helpful to think of it as eating three meals and two snacks a day. When you are feeding, or "refueling" your child, make it balanced by serving a variety of food types. A good combination to make your child feel full: fiber carbohydrates with lean protein. According to Feldman, the number five plus your child’s age equals the minimum number of grams of fiber he or she needs a day. Natural sources of fiber carbs are not limited to 100 percent whole wheat bread. Again, think balance and variety. Feldman reminded me that beans, lentils, fruits, veggies, and popcorn all contain fiber.
With all this talk of fiber, how can we also keep it fun for our growing child? “Moderation is the key,” said Feldman, “Which means an occasional treat once a week and no more than twice a week.” If a child never has to miss a birthday cupcake or fun food during the holidays, he or she will be more willing to cooperate and eat healthily the majority of the time. I know in my own classroom, children are happier when their hard work is rewarded once in a while. Whether you have the world’s pickiest eater or a child that inhales everything, keep it simple and fun when it comes to practicing good nutrition at your own kitchen table.
Phone interview with Julie Feldman, M.P.H, R.D., June 16, 2011