I used to think that mothers who thought their kids were underweight were overreacting – until I had a daughter of my own. I found myself constantly worrying that Isabella wasn’t eating enough and say to my husband, “Look, I can see all her ribs!” Yet, every time we went in for a well baby checkup, she was above the 90th percentile for both height and weight. Now, I know that it’s a normal maternal instinct to feel that your baby is never eating enough to eat. I also came to understand how valuable growth charts are for reassuring parents that they’re doing a good job.
You can monitor your child’s progress by checking their current weight and height against the World Health Organization’s growth chart (the most accurate for children world-wide).
Many parents are concerned that their children aren’t eating enough, but the good news is that no child will ever purposefully starve themselves. Avoid force-feeding kids or making mealtimes a battle of wills.
Most children grow in sudden spurts; one minute their clothes fit perfectly, the next they’re too small. A child’s appetite will increase right before and during a growth spurt, then return to normal when they’re eating purely to keep up bodily functions. Here are a few tips to ensure healthy eating at home:
• Make a range of healthy foods available to your child and allow them to choose the order and amount they want to eat.
• Use visual aids like the USDA’s My Plate guide to ensure that meals are nutritionally-balanced. According to My Plate, half the plate shout contain veggies, one quarter whole grains or non-processed starch, and one quarter protein.
• Avoid “empty foods” – high-calorie, low nutrient snacks that trick the brain into thinking the body has already eaten.
• Keep an easily accessible fruit bowl at home.
• Avoid purchasing large amounts of packaged snacks.
• Ensure your child gets the recommended five portions of fruits and veggies per day. They should also take a daily Vitamin D supplement to help with bone health.
• Minimize exposure to screen time and make physical activity part of their daily routine. On weekends, plan family outings that include physical activity and exposure to sunlight (whenever possible).
• Schedule a routine well baby (every two to three months) or well child (every six to 12 months) checkup to ensure your child is growing adequately. If unsure, ask your doctor about the amount and type of food they should be offered.