Guest Post By Gabriella Solis, Texas Woman's University Dietetic Intern
August is Kids Eat Right Month and we are celebrating all month long. I am so excited to write this blog because as a dietetic intern I am constantly being exposed to the different stages of life where nutrition plays a role. And what I have found is that nutrition affects ALL stages of life: from newborn babies to toddlers, school kids, teenagers and adults! The reason why I decided to study nutrition and become a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) is because I find it so spectacular to see the great impact that proper nutrition can play on our bodies.
Last week I spent a few days working in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at the hospital where I am completing my clinical rotation. As I spoke to the NICU RDN, she explained that nutrition has a great impact on the development of premature babies; in fact, nutrition may be the number one thing that can help a baby reach a weight close to what they would have gained if they were still inside the womb. The RDN listed four things that need to happen before a baby is discharged from the hospital. Today we have framed it in an easy-to-remember acronym so it's easy to remember the 4 keys to a child's growth:
G stands for Gain. Gain proper weight.
R stands for Repond to feeding cues. Be able to eat / nipple without a problem,
O stands for On air. Be on room air and off the ventilator or oxygen.
W stands for Warmth. Be able to maintain proper temperature.
That day after I got home and read my notes I analyzed those four points. After staring at my paper for several seconds I started thinking that in reality this should be the goal not just for every baby, but for every child out there. I know you’re probably thinking to yourself right now how can we apply these four points to every child, but let me explain my thought process a little bit more.
G -- Gain proper weight
Every child should gain proper weight for proper development. The reality is that childhood obesity has more than doubled in children in the past 30 years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Proper weight gain can be determined by plotting a child’s growth patterns on a growth chart. You can ask your pediatric doctor or dietitian to do this at your child’s next appointment. The growth charts can show you where your child stands when compared to other children of the same age. The three CDC growth charts that can be used for children and adolescents from 2 to 20 years old are the stature-for-age, weight-for-age, and BMI-for-age. You can use these tools to determine if you need to make changes in your child’s diet or physical activity regimen. Getting your child at the proper weight for his/her age will have many benefits in the long run! Children who are underweight or overweight are more likely to have risk factors for social and psychological problems, poor self-esteem, cardiovascular disease, and even diabetes.
R -- Respond to Feeding Cues
Your child should be eating the right foods without a problem. In order to provide a balanced diet, try introducing foods from the different food groups from the MyPlate (fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy) at every meal. If you do this you will have the assurance that you are providing your kid with plenty of nutrients for proper growth and development. Is your child a picky eater? Try introducing new foods. You never know what your kid will like! How about the “I don’t like vegetables!” kiddo? You can try adding vegetables to foods your kid enjoys. For example, try making a fruit smoothie and add spinach to it. Your kid will drink it, enjoy it and may never even find out that they are drinking spinach (you can’t even taste it and it is delicious). Also, try to get creative with your meals. Children are more likely to eat their food if it looks pretty and colorful on their plate.
O -- On Room Air
This is a term that is used in the clinical setting to indicate that a patient is off the ventilator and is breathing on their own. But this point didn’t necessarily make me think of actual “room air”, but more of “fresh air”. We need to be grateful for the blessing of having healthy lungs. So get out there and get some fresh air. Plan outdoor activities with your family that will allow you to enjoy of some fresh air and get some vitamin D through the sun. Some ideas include picnics, going out for a walk or a run, playing soccer or Frisbee, or even playing capture the flag with a group of friends.
W -- Warmth
When premature babies are born they may need of an incubator or a special warmer to help them maintain their body temperature. But how about if we think of maintaining our child’s and our own body temperature by sweating? Hmmm.. I’m sure you didn’t see that one coming! Well, sweating is a bodily function that helps us regulate our body’s temperature, and when I think of sweating I think of exercise and physical activity. Physical activity has many benefits such as controlling our weight, strengthening our muscles and bones, improving our mental health and mood, and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some types of cancers. These are all great benefits that will not only make you feel healthier but will also give you some time to spend with your child as the entire family works out together!
All four of these points in the acronym G-R-O-W provide great ways in which you can promote good health for your child. And as I mentioned at the beginning, proper nutrition can greatly impact your overall health. Keep in mind that living a healthy lifestyle by choosing the right foods and including physical activity throughout the day will benefit the entire family because nutrition affects ALL stages of life! Remember to keep track of proper weight gain, eat the right foods, take advantage of the ability to breathe fresh air, and enjoy of some physical activities with your family. For more great feeding tips and resources for children of all ages, visit KidsEatRight.org.Gabriella has completed one year of graduate school at Texas Woman's University and is currently completing her dietetic internship. She will sit for the registration exam to be a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) in February 2016, and will graduate with her MS in Nutrition next May 2016. Gabi loves providing nutrition education to promote lifestyle changes and optimize the human body. The two things that she loves to do the most is spend time with her family and travel to different parts of the world. This picture was taken in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato in Mexico this summer.