In my child nutrition clinic I see children from toddlerhood, early years and into primary school with diet related conditions.
The importance of child nutrition
We all know that food and nutrition is of central importance to all young children. Childhood is a busy learning time for food with developing feeding skills, communication through food, preferences and appetite regulation. And later on learning what good food and healthy eating means. Healthy eating is about having the a wide range of nutritious foods, as well as fun, treat or celebration foods, in order to meet the needs for physical and intellectual growth. Much of this is experienced with family and friends, then later on with peers and teachers at school. There is a trend towards over consumption of high sugar, low nutrient dense foods and which market forces are bringing earlier in the food learning journey. We also know that habitual diets which are poor in nutritional quality impact a childs growing body and mind. yet don’t always have the mix of knowledge and skills to provide, encourage and manage children to eat well. Reinforcing healthy eating practices, I select/provide resources to help parents navigate food choices for their child and family, using themes of structure, nurture and boundaries.
Children need a positive approach to food and nutrition to learn about healthy eating and learn best when given encouragement, praise and have fun. Positive experience in early childhood stays with them into adult life and shapes their attitudes, beliefs and behaviour around food. Using positive reinforcement strategies helps foster that all-important good relationship with food.
Dietary Assessment Methods
Whatever the problem, the starting point, using various dietary assessment methods, is understanding the unique nutritional story for each child and family. This includes individual needs for age and sex; dietary intake and nutrient profile, together with an understanding of growth and feeding history. An understanding of child development and behaviour as this relates to food and feeding is very much part of my skill-set. For children with complex feeding needs eg. extreme food refusal and/or severe growth faltering, I signpost to or work alongside other professionals such as Psychologists, Speech and language therapists and/or Paediatricians.