As a parent, it's natural to be concerned about your child's growth and development. But lately, many parents have had another pressing issue on their minds. According to a recent International Food Information Council (IFIC) report on children's nutrition, immune health is parents' second-largest nutritional concern, right behind growth and development. This is likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related shifts in social behaviors.
Parents Face Common Challenges
If picky eating is an issue in your home, you're not alone. According to the IFIC report, more than 40 percent of parents surveyed wish their child was willing to try new foods. And nearly half feel their child is pickier than other kids of the same age.
The biggest challenge parents associated with picky eating was getting children to eat vegetables (especially dark greens). Parents also noted that they struggle to convince their kids to eat other healthy foods like beans, peas and seafood.
At the same time, the cost of these foods was also top of mind. Roughly one in three parents who took part in the survey cited the price of healthy food as a leading obstacle to putting a nutritious meal on the table.
Concerns About Added Sweets
In addition to wishing their children would eat more nutritious foods, the IFIC report found that many parents would also like their kids to consume fewer unhealthy foods, especially sweets. And with good reason. Nine in ten parents reported their children eat sweets at least once daily, providing lots of empty calories.
No wonder parents like to know what goes into their family's food. More than half that responded to the survey said they regularly read food labels such as the Nutrition Facts panel and the ingredients list.
A Place for Supplements & Multivitamins
On the upside, three out of four parents surveyed as part of the IFIC report noted that they believe their child's diet adequately supports the child’s immune health, growth and development.
Yet many kids' diets are far from perfect. According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, 36 percent of children consume fast food daily, and only three-quarters eat fruit on a given day. Perhaps that's why 77 percent of parents in the IFIC survey reported giving their child a supplement, such as a multivitamin, to fill nutrition gaps.
Dietary Recommendations for Children
If you're not always sure what your child should (or shouldn't) eat for optimal health, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is a great place to start. This expert report sums up everything children (and adults) need for a balanced, nutritious diet.
Especially for kids, that means plenty of:
Because children's rapidly growing bodies require lots of nutrition, there isn't much room for:
Focusing on a healthy diet that can support your child's immune health, growth and development is more important than ever. If picky eating is preventing your child from consuming a balanced diet, an oral nutrition supplement like PediaSure® may help. Made with 25 vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and 7 grams of high-quality protein per serving, it's the No. 1 brand recommended by pediatricians.
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Fighting Malnutrition to Promote Childhood Growth
Proper nutrition is the foundation for living the best life possible. It’s especially important to help babies and children grow and reach their full potential. Approximately 60% of adult height is achieved by age 5, making nutrition essential in the early stages of life. Undernutrition in the first five years may challenge a child’s development and limit future potential in terms of academic success, physical development and overall health.
Decoding Your Child's Growth Chart
Pediatricians have several different tools they can use to measure your child's health. One of the most powerful among them is the growth chart. Sometimes, it can be difficult to make sense of all those lines and numbers — if you've felt this before, you're not alone. Here's some valuable insight into how to decode and better understand your child's chart. A Window Into Your Child's Health The growth chart might seem like just another piece of paper, but it's packed with several important insights. On the surface, it can look like these charts are simply about height and weight; however, growth is an indicator of many aspects of your child's health and well-being, such as cognitive development, immunity and nutrition status. One Size Doesn't Fit All The growth chart uses a set of measurements, called percentiles, to compare your child's weight, height and head size (in the case of infants) to those of other children of the same age and sex. The higher the percentile, the larger a child is compared to their peers. Conversely, the lower the percentile, the smaller the child. For example, if your child is in the 75th percentile for height, that means they are taller than 75% of kids their age. Kids of average height for their age based on WHO Child growth standards would measure in the 50th percentile. It's natural to assume bigger is better, but that's not necessarily the case. Many factors influence a child's size, including genetics, diet, and even their environment. Instead of focusing on a specific goal, pediatricians are far more interested in each child's individual growth trend. For instance, a child who has consistently been in the 30th percentile for height or weight might be experiencing perfectly healthy growth; however, if that number were to suddenly drop to the 15th percentile or below, further investigation might make sense. Adding Up the Numbers Because children experience different rates of growth according to their age, there are two basic types of growth charts. The first is designed for newborns and babies up to age 2, while the other is for kids and young adults between the ages of 2 and 20. At every wellness visit, your pediatrician will measure your child's height and weight to keep close tabs on their growth trend. Then, they'll plot these figures on the chart. You don't have to wait until your child's next appointment to learn the results. You can download the same charts they use and plot the results yourself.