5 ways a dietitian can help your child

Many parents express concern about their child’s nutrition. The concerns can range from a lack of fruit and vegetable intake, to not eating enough protein, and to weight concerns. Concerned parents may quickly turn to the internet, a friend, or family to seek advice. Many times it seems a dietitian is consulted as a last resort.

I once heard a fellow dietitian say that they thought it would be nice if nutrition was viewed like we do oral health and seeing a dentist with the idea being that someone can see a dietitian yearly to have a nutrition check-up, just like we see a dentist to have a check-up.

Your child does not have to be sick or seriously undernourished to see a dietitian. Here are 5 ways a dietitian can help your child and your family that you may not have realized.

Discuss overall healthy habits- I am sure many parents feel that they have discussed what is healthy and feel that their kids do not listen. Depending upon the age of the kids they may sometimes listen to an outside source. When I counsel patients I focus on teaching them what each nutrient does for our body and relate it to something that they understand. For example, if a child is concerned about doing well in school and they do not eat breakfast I will discuss how glucose and carbohydrates are the main fuel for our brain and when breakfast is skipped it may make a difference e in the grades they get.

Sports Nutrition- Just like improved eating habits can improve academic performance, choosing the right nutrients can help a child perform best in a sport. A dietitian can examine a child’s current daily intake and compare their meal and snack times to activity times and make recommendations on the timing of meals and snacks to best meet their needs and what foods would be best to eat for improved performance.

Desire to be vegetarian- Many parents become concerned when a child expresses interest in being vegetarian. It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that children and adolescents can grow appropriately on either a vegetarian or vegan diet if the right foods are included. A dietitian can help you and your child choose meals and snacks that meet their needs and preferences.

Concern about a child with limited food choices- This is also known as picky eating, which is a concern of many parents. A dietitian can take a detailed food record, review a child’s growth, and discuss food preferences. This information is used to make suggestions on other foods to introduce and ways to introduce them that match the child’s comfort level. The RD can evaluate growth and look for possible gaps in the child’s diet and make some recommendations on how to fill the gaps.

Questions about a child with special needs- A special needs child may have poor appetite due to medications, accept limited textures due to swallowing problems, or be on tube feedings. A dietitian can help the family through all of these issues and provide recommendations to make sure the child is meeting nutrition needs so they can grow and thrive.

If you are interested in your child seeing a registered dietitian I would recommend that you find one that specializes in pediatrics. The Commission on Dietetic Registration has a specialty certification for dietitians that specialize in pediatrics (CSP). Here is a link to find one near you. If an RD is not a CSP then call them to discuss previous experience. There are many qualified dietitians that specialize in pediatrics, but may not have the credential.