Nutrition Tips for Parents

HKHCO May nutrition image
Keep your kids healthy with valuable tips and information from experts at Children's Hospital Colorado. Different popular topics are highlighted each month. To receive monthly updates, sign up now.

See questions and answers from our Ask the Experts session on May 7, 2014. From picky eating and limiting sugary beverages to making healthy food choices, find the answers from our pediatric experts.  

This month's topic: Nutrition

Nutrition is important to your child’s health, development, growth and general well-being. What your child eats can make a big difference in how your child thrives and grows.

Picky eaters

  • Serve a food your child enjoys along with a food that he or she has refused to eat in the past. Set limits on “favorites” and introduce other foods on the plate.  Make the same food for everyone in the family (unless someone has special dietary restrictions or food allergies).
  • Serve food again even if it was refused before. It may take many tries before a child likes it. Only put a little bit of foods they think they don’t like on the plate and praise them just for tasting it. 
  • Invite children to help with food preparation. It can make eating food more fun. 
  • Add eye appeal. Cut foods into interesting shapes. Create a smiling face on top of a casserole with cheese, vegetables, or fruit strips. 
  • Put less pressure on them to take bites and focus more on consistently putting it on their plate. Praise them for trying the taste and ignore the comments or facial gestures.
  • Set a good example by eating well yourself and make eating together at the table a family routine when possible. 

Making healthier choices

  • If you don’t enjoy plain water, try adding fresh cut-up fruit to your water bottle! You can also freeze fruit into ice cubes or just use frozen fruit to flavor the water. Save soda, juice, and sports drinks that have added calories and sugar for rare occasions.
  • Have your kids help in the kitchen making some easy, healthy recipes such as: Strawberry Avocado Salsa, Banana Ice Cream or yummy Popsicles
  • Limit processed foods that contain artificial colors, flavors and preservatives as much as possible and focus on eating real food.
  • Is organic produce worth the cost? See this guide for the best foods to buy organic.
  • Prepare healthy snacks ahead of time. Cut up fruits and vegetables to “grab and go.” Use small sandwich-sized bags or containers so you don’t feel pressured to put the snack together before you really need it.

 Food allergies/sensitivities

  • A food allergy is an adverse reaction to a food. Symptoms most often include hives but can also include facial swelling, tingling or burning in the mouth, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Other conditions, such as lactose intolerance or gluten related disorders, are caused by eating certain foods, but these are not food allergies.
  • Learn more about food allergies.
  • Next month, we will have even more information about food allergies in toddlers.

Nutrition for young athletes

  • Energy drinks – just say no!  Kids and young adults should not drink energy drinks.  
  • Pre-practice snacks are important to fuel work outs, especially if your child eats lunch as early as 11 am.  Look for snacks high in carbohydrates and fluids that are low in fat and fiber because they are easier to digest before a workout - things like low-fat yogurt, fresh fruit, pretzels, graham crackers, or whole wheat toast with jam.
  • Good pre-game nutrition maximizes your ability to compete:
    - Before a game, eat meals with high carbohydrates, moderate amounts of protein, small amounts of fat and drink plenty of fluids. They will digest quickly and easily.
    - Follow your typical routine. Stick with the same foods, drinks, and timing that work well during practice. 
  • Stay hydrated with the right types of fluids:
    - Water is best during moderate exercise or if an athlete is thirsty between meals. 
    - Use sports drinks when playing for more than an hour, during tournaments, or when it’s hot. Sports drinks have calories and overuse can diminish balanced eating. 
    - Milk is a great choice at meals to provide protein, vitamins and minerals. 
    - Use low-fat chocolate milk as a recovery snack. It has fluids, carbohydrates, and protein.
  • Drink water. Save sports drinks for intense practices lasting over 1 hour and that cause your athlete sweat a lot. 

Learn more about Nutrition at Children's Hospital Colorado.

As heard on  Alice logo

Listen to Slacker from Alice 105.9 ask our expert, Dr. Richard Boles, about picky eating: