Set a Good Example
Research reveals that parents who eat nutritious foods in front of their children can positively influence the nutritional quality of their child's meals. So, in addition to offering your kid as many nutritious foods as possible, set a good example by demonstrating healthy eating behaviors and patterns. While you're at it, why not cook together? One study links children who know how to cook with better nutritional outcomes.
Prioritize Family Mealtime
A growing body of evidence shows a wide range of benefits associated with family meals, ranging from physical to social-emotional to academic. In a meta-analysis of 17 studies, researchers found that children and adolescents who share family meals three or more times per week were more likely to be in a normal weight range and eat healthier foods compared to those who share fewer than three family meals together.
Screen for Nutritional Deficiencies
The best defense against the effects of childhood malnutrition is early identification. Your healthcare provider can assess your child's nutrition status through a number of screening measures. One screening tool, the mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) z-score tape, allows you to screen your child at home. This inexpensive, paper-based device wraps around your child's upper arm like a measuring tape to quickly identify malnutrition risk. From there, you can work with your child's pediatrician to understand the circumstances behind an at-risk reading and design a path to care.
When it comes to protecting your child from the effects of childhood malnutrition, nutritious, balanced meals should be the top priority. However, for some children, this may not be enough. If you suspect your child isn't getting sufficient nutrients, ask your pediatrician about options that provide the vitamins, minerals and protein your child needs to thrive.