A human’s most rapid growth is experienced within the first year of life.
From birth to six months, a baby’s weight doubles, tripling by the time the child reaches a year.
Once children begin eating table food, appetites fluctuate, St. Joseph’s Area Health Services dietitian Lisa Marthaler explains.
She advises allowing children to take the reins. “It’s important to let children regulate food intake. Let them learn from hunger cues. Provide a variety of nutritious choices.”
And abolish the once-revered Clean Plate Club.
“Set meal times. Family meals are important,” said Marthaler, who has moved from the role of intern at St. Joseph’s to a registered clinical dietitian. “Don’t focus on the finished plate.” From children to adolescent, the emphasis should be on a balance of fruit, grains, vegetables, protein and dairy, with moderate fat.
Inform kids of nutritious food; don’t put food off limits. Help kids make educated decisions, she said.
And that tutelage can begin at the grocery store and kitchen. “Color is fun for kids.” Veggies can become and artistic medium. “Make a face on the plate.”
And don’t fear moving into uncharted territory when it comes to selecting fruits and vegetables. “Head to the Internet if you need advice on cooking rutabagas,” for example, she counsels.
“I’m a firm believer healthy kids become healthy adults.”
But while children are receptive to adventures in edibles, adolescents are an obstinate audience.
“It’s a tough age,” Marthaler said. “They are highly influenced by their peers. And most meals are eaten away from home,” making it “tough for a parent to be involved.”
Kids at this age have declared independence. But they can also become role models for their peers. “Get a group to set an example,” she said of forming a Fruits- Veggies- Whole Grains Proponents Club – or possibly a “fvwg ckb” in text terms.
“Don’t be frustrated,” she advises. Have nutritious meals at home. Promote family meals with soda and chips not a part of the menu. “Set an example.”
Calcium is key for bones, as are adequate calories, 1,600 to 1,800 per day, depending on activities, she counsels.
Packing lunch, as opposed to buying it, affords a good opportunity to address a balanced diet.
And throw an extra batch of veggies in soups and casseroles.
The US Dietary Guidelines 2011 spell it out via a My Plate graphic. Half is fruits and veggies with a quarter grains (whole grains preferred) and a quarter protein – fish, chicken, turkey and leaner red meat. Dairy completes the meal.
Marthaler recommends limiting fruit juice – “Too much sugar” – and eating fresh fruit instead.
The University of Delaware has formulated a 5-2-1-Almost None Formula to combat childhood obesity, the national average now at 35 percent.
A survey found:
The resulting 5-2-1- Almost None Formula calls for
These are guidelines, Marthaler pointed out. “They don’t stipulate, have this, but not that. And they can apply to all age levels. Everyone can benefit.”
That includes adults.
As humans age, the metabolism slows and the body composition changes.
“Focus on balance,” Marthaler said of diet and exercise. The key to maintaining health and well-being is a nutritional diet and physical activity – “anything you enjoy.”
But “sticking with it” can prove daunting at times. That’s where group exercise classes prove effective, creating a “sense of responsibility.”