Tips on Mealtime and Your Underweight Child

If you're like me then you're searching for ways to get good nutritious food in your kids' belly but also finding ways to give them enough calories. Remember that as parents you are responsible for what is offered and where and when it is presented. You are also responsible for providing a safe and enjoyable environment during meal times.

Children on the other hand are responsible for deciding how much food they will eat and whether they will eat at all. Make sure you:

1. Offer variety of nutritious foods.
2. Offer foods that are safe.
3. Offer serving sizes that are appropriate.
4. Eat meals at the table.
5. Eat at regular times.
6. Serve as good role models when choosing foods to eat.
7. Don't pressure or bribe the child to eat.
8. Avoid arguing or negative behaviors during meals.

Children should be eating at least three meals a day with two snacks. I've had parents think their child was "always eating" but when you broke it down they weren't eating a lot of calories. They were snacking on rice cakes and grapes. I had one mom say that she thought carbohydrates were bad for her child and tried to limit them. Contrary to the adult diet kids actually need a lot of carbohydrates. Because kids are little and not eating a lot they need to have nutrient dense foods as well as energy dense foods.

A food is nutrient dense if the vitamin and mineral content is more than its energy or calorie content such as lean meats, beans, oranges, carrots, broccoli, whole-wheat bread, and whole-grain breakfast cereals. Energy dense foods contribute more calories than they do nutrients such as chips, sodas, cookies and ice cream. Remember to balance healthy nutrient dense foods with energy dense foods.

Feeding children particularly an underweight child can be stressful if you micromanage their meals. I know it's tempting to chase them around the house with a forkful of food. But don't. Try instead to:

1. Give them small meals that have both nutrient dense and energy dense foods and drinks.
2. Add fats to food such as butter on potatoes and toast, mayo and cheese on sandwiches.
3. Offer whole fat products, such as milk, cottage cheese, creamed soups, pudding and yogurt.
4. Add calories to foods such as fruit in heavy syrup and vegetable with cheese sauce.

Don't forget to visit your pediatrician for a thorough exam.

Life expectancy rates have always interested me. We read about Biblical figures living well past 100, and yet most Europeans seem to have died quite young. Part of these averages were brought down by the many women who died in childbirth, and deadly diseases which swept through villages, wiping out entire populations. But what eventually made the difference in elevating longevity rates was, quite simply, hygiene.

In medieval Europe, early Christian leaders declared bathing to be non-spiritual. Fortunately, this belief was limited to small regions and was short-lived. With the collapse of the Roman Empire, the popularity and knowledge of bathing and sanitation were on the rise. (After all, wasn't cleanliness next to godliness?) During the "Dark Ages" primitive soap making became an established trade. And the Roman baths and unique aqua duct systems were legendary.

Across the pond, many of the British royalty were known for their not-so-healthy lifestyles, which might include wearing the same clothes for months on end, and even sleeping in them. (No wonder leprosy was so rampant.) It is noted that King James VI of Scotland, who reigned during the mid-sixteenth century, was famous for wearing the same hat until it literally fell apart. And word was that he never bathed, believing it was bad for his health. (Pity poor Mrs. James VI.) Early Americans slept with closed windows at night, believing that disease drifted in on the night air. Ignorance of germs and cleanliness contributed greatly to poor health, especially tuberculosis and smallpox.

In the mid-nineteenth century, a very observant physician theorized that women who were assisted by medical students during childbirth had a high likelihood of dying. His theory proved accurate when the students were required to wash their hands prior to midwifery. After just a few months, death rates dropped dramatically. It seems many of the med students came to assist births directly from performing autopsies. With the discovery of bacteria, hand washing took on a new importance and helped reduce the spread of germs and viruses.

About the same time in England, cholera epidemics were raging. A Dr. John Snow believed that cholera was spread primarily via contaminated water, brought on by lack of sanitation and sewage disposal. A few improvements in his part of London had dramatic results, and happily the epidemics soon departed. Other cities began to follow suit, and disease in highly populated areas declined significantly.

Amusingly, the first flushing toilet is attributed to the appropriately named Thomas Crapper in 1861. While his involvement in the invention is often debated, he clearly understood the mechanics and made significant contributions to the modern septic tank system, which pumped dirty water out of buildings and sent it on its way. This vastly improved the primitive sewage and waste systems (or lack of) in London, which set a precedent for other cities with similar problems, along with reducing the need for chamber pots.

In the 1920's, the introduction of a disinfectant named Lysol was incredibly first sold as a genital cleanser for women and possible birth control device (don't even go there). Lysol advertised a list of benefits for every female need and was actually used for such purposes until 1960. The fact that Lysol was and remains a caustic poison which can cause skin burns and intense itching apparently didn't deter women from applying it to their skin, not to mention delicate tissues. Nor did it deter the advertisers from promoting it for gynecological purposes for over 30 years. Fortunately, now it is (hopefully) limited to household and commercial cleaning. Ouch.

It is almost inconceivable to imagine life without our modern conveniences and cleanliness standards. The things we take for granted, like hot and cold running water, washing machines and daily bathing, are only recent inventions. From the caveman up until the twentieth century, hygiene was pretty much absent in most people's lives. Happily, we now honor its importance. Long life, my fellow Americans.
By the age of two years, the kid should be eating three healthy meals a day along with snacks. Offer food with different flavors and textures to your child. Offer finger food to your child as at this age kids love to eat on their own. A child continues to develop his or her feeding skills, encourage new foods and flavor combinations. Here are a few healthy snack ideas which can be added to daily meal of a Kid:

• Wheat Fruit Pancakes

Cooking time: 15 to 20 minutes

Ingredients: Wheat Flour, milk, seasonal fruits, sugar (optional), butter/ghee, honey

Method: Chop all dry fruits into small pieces. Mix Ragi powder, milk, and sugar in a bowl and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Brush the pan with butter and pour half a ladle of batter on the pan. Cook it properly from both the sides. Set aside to cool it down. Layer it with banana slices and drizzle honey on the pancake.

Note: Make sure your kid is not allergic to any dry fruits. You may use the dry fruit powder in it instead of pieces. You can add other fruits of your baby's choice as well.

• Besan Chilla

Time: 10 to 15 minutes

Ingredient: Chickpea flour, salt, beans, capsicum, carrot, onion, butter

Method: Wash and dry all veggies. Chop them into small pieces. Mix chickpea flour, veggies, salt, pepper and water in a bowl. Prepare a batter of similar consistency. Heat the pan and brush it with butter. Pour half a ladle of batter into the pan. Cook it properly from both the sides and let it cool down before offering it to the child.

Note: You can opt for veggies as per the preference of your child. Make sure the veggies are chopped into small pieces and cooked properly.

• Colorful sandwiches

Time required: 15 to 20 minutes

Ingredient required: Brown bread, Tomato, Onion, Cucumber, salt, butter, ketchup, mayonnaise

Method: Wash and clean all the vegetable. Cut veggies into small pieces and set aside. Put a little butter on a pan and toast bread. Mix mayonnaise and veggies in a bowl. Spread it evenly on the bread. Sprinkle salt and pepper. Use a cookie cutter to give shapes to these sandwiches.

Note: Select the veggies as per your baby's liking. Use ketchup to make a smiley face on a sandwich to make it more appealing to your child.
It is the most abundant mineral in the body, present mainly in the bones and teeth. From the start, toddlers have an increased need for dietary calcium to support bone growth and skeletal development that takes place rapidly in the early years of life. This development and its need - continues into the teenage years and is particularly crucial for adolescent girls who need to stock their calcium supplies to prevent osteoporosis later in life. Adequate intake at this stage is needed to support ongoing bone growth and to achieve peak bone mass. It is an essential dietary element required in optimal amounts for good bone health, efficient nerve and muscle function, and overall cardiovascular health. Without enough of it throughout life, a person's bones can begin to weaken over time. That can make it more difficult to stay active while also creating a higher risk of fractures and osteoporosis. A person's bone density will generally reach its peak at roughly age 30, and then begin to fade after that. Adequate daily intake can help maintain proper bone density and help prevent osteoporosis - which creates porous and fragile bones. It makes up about three percent of the earth's crust and is a basic component of most animals and plants. Eating a diet rich in calcium helps to restore it to the bones; supplements can help as well.

Why is calcium necessary?

It is known mostly for its role in building and maintaining strong bones and teeth, but it is also required for proper functioning of the heart, muscles and nervous system. It plays a role in maintaining normal blood pressure, regulating blood clotting. It is also associated with relieving mood swings, food cravings, and decreasing the pain, tenderness and bloating associated with premenstrual syndrome.

What are the deficiency signs?

Deficiency symptoms (also known as hypocalcemia) range from minor - numbness or tingling of the fingers, muscle cramps, lethargy and poor appetite - to more severe, including mental confusion, skeletal malformations, dermatitis, and in infants, delayed development. Illnesses such as osteoporosis (brittle, thin, porous bones that easily break) and rickets are also associated with a deficiency.

How much, and what kind, does an adult need?

If vitamin D levels are optimal, most adults should be able to meet their daily calcium needs via a varied diet. When individuals are unable to get enough of it through a diet or for those who may need more than the recommended daily allowance, supplements can help. Doctors recommends women supplement with 500 to 700 mg of calcium citrate in two divided doses taken with meals for a total of 1,000-1,200 mg a day from all sources. Supplementing with its citrate form, which is more easily absorbed than other forms, taken with half the dosage amount of magnesium.

How much does a child need?

The normal daily recommended intake for children is as follows: infants through three years of age is 400-800 mg; children between 4 and 10 years of age is 800 mg; adolescent males is 800-1,200 mg; and adolescent females is 800-1,200 mg daily.
How do you get enough from foods?

An abundant source of this mineral in the American diet is dairy products - two glasses of milk per day provide 1,000-1,200 mg. If you choose to get via dairy products - and this is not essential, as there are many other calcium-rich foods - make sure you use only hormone-free, organic dairy products to reduce your exposure to the antibiotics and hormones found in many dairy products. Non-dairy foods include: greens such as collards, mustard, kale, and bok choy; canned salmon (with bones) and sardines; tofu, soy milk, fruit juice and cereals; blackstrap molasses; and broccoli.

Are there any risks associated with too much?

Its supplements can be constipating, and should be balanced with magnesium as discussed above. Excessive amounts in the blood may have negative effects, including nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and increased urination. More serious complications include kidney toxicity, confusion, and irregular heart rhythm. Studies indicate that men who take too much may have an increased risk of prostate cancer, and should limit their dietary intake to 500-600 mg daily from all sources.

Who should we take it as supplements?

It is an important mineral for the human body. It helps build and protect your teeth and bones. Getting enough of it over your lifetime can help prevent osteoporosis. Most people get it through their normal diet. Dairy foods and leafy green vegetables have high levels of calcium. Your health care provider will tell you if you need to take extra dose id required.

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