Nutritional Assessments and Support

At Westchester Health Pediatrics, your child’s nutrition is one of our top priorities

Two common concerns among many of our parents are: whether their child is getting the right nutrition and if their child’s weight is on track for his/her stage of development. Here at Westchester Health Pediatrics, whether we’re seeing your child for a routine well visit, annual physical, or when he/she is sick or injured, we make sure to check your child’s overall health status.

If we feel your child is not getting adequate nutrition, we’ll discuss the issue with you and your child, and together, work toward solutions. This could include referring your child to our on-staff nutritionist, suggesting vitamin supplements, or simply reviewing the best foods he/she should be eating for a healthy diet.

Above all, our goal is always to help your child get and stay healthy.

Childhood obesity

Obesity is usually defined as being more than 20% above ideal weight for your child’s particular height and age. If your child falls within this range, it’s very important to find ways to help him/her to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, now and in the years to come.

At least 3 in 4 obese teens grow up to become obese adults, which predisposes them to serious illnesses such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, stroke and several forms of cancer. Even a moderate, sustained weight loss of approximately 10% can bring elevated levels of blood pressure, insulin and blood sugar back to normal.

In addition to contributing to serious health problems, being overweight in adolescence can lead to lasting emotional damage. Overweight or obese children are more likely to have a negative body image and low self-esteem, which may make them withdraw socially and possibly turn even more to food as a source of comfort, or to drugs or alcohol. Overweight or obese children are also prone to anxiety and depression.

Yet working together, we can help your child get to a healthy weight. We may refer you to a nutritionist or sports medicine specialist to design healthy eating and exercise programs to suit your child’s needs and your family environment. We may suggest counseling to address underlying emotional issues that need to be addressed. But whichever strategy we recommend, we want to see your child at regular intervals, both to check on his/her progress and to offer crucial support and encouragement.

Underweight

Although much attention is given to overweight kids, we also become concerned when a child is underweight. When we assess your child during a well or sick visit, or routine physical, and conclude that he/she is significantly underweight, we’ll address the issue with you and your child. Then together, we’ll explore healthy solutions that will work for you, your child and your family.

Eating Disorders

If it’s a matter of your child eating too much, not enough or too many unhealthy foods, we’ll make sure he/she understands the importance of following a healthy diet. If, on the other hand, we feel that your child might be anorexic or bulimic — much more serious than simply being underweight — we may refer him/her to a mental health specialist.

Whichever course of action we together decide is best for your child, we want you to know that we are here for you, every step of the way, and we will do all we can to help your child become physically and emotionally healthy.

The crucial importance of calcium

One of the most important nutrients needed by your child’s growing body is calcium, not only for strong bones and teeth but to help prevent the bone-loss disease osteoporosis (girls are at greater risk than boys).

Babies and adolescents who don’t get enough calcium and vitamin D (which aids in calcium absorption) are at increased risk for rickets, a bone-softening disease that causes severe bowing of the legs, poor growth, muscle pain and weakness.

Calcium also plays an important part in making sure that muscles and nerves work properly. If blood calcium levels are low, the body takes calcium from the bones to help these functions.

If your child gets enough calcium and physical activity through adolescence and the teenage years, he/she can enter the adult years with the strongest bones possible.

Top 10 sources of calcium

1. Dairy: milk, cheese, yogurt. A cup of cow’s milk has 300 mg of calcium, the same as 1 cup of yogurt, 1½ ounces of natural cheese, or 2 ounces of processed cheese.

2. Calcium-fortified orange juice. Fortified orange juice is loaded with calcium — as much as 500 mg is added to each cup.

3. Almonds. These yummy snack-able nuts pack a surprisingly significant amount of calcium; 1/3 of a cup contains 110 mg of calcium, raw or roasted.

4. Sweet potatoes. A sweet potato provides 55 mg of calcium, and a cup of cooked sweet potatoes about 76 mg. They have lots of other nutrients as well, making them a great nutritional food.

5. Beans. A cup of boiled small white beans (dried) provides 130 mg of calcium, nearly as much as half a cup of milk. A cup of canned white beans has 190 mg, and a cup of canned chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, contains 80 mg.

6. Broccoli. A terrific source of calcium, broccoli “trees” can be dipped in yogurt to make them more appetizing to finicky eaters.

7. Green peas. Containing 45 mg of calcium per cup, peas are also packed with vitamins K (increases bone mineral density and bone strength), C and A, plus protein.

8. Calcium-fortified cereals. Some breakfast cereals are fortified with as much as 1,000 mg of calcium in each 1 1/3–cup serving. Add a cup of milk and your child will get all the calcium he/she needs for the day.

9. Calcium-fortified waffles. Not all frozen waffles are fortified with calcium but those that are can provide 100 mg.

10. Calcium-fortified instant oatmeal. While instant oatmeal doesn’t offer the same benefits as rolled oats, it’s a quick breakfast option that’s full of fiber and calcium (choose ones without added sugar).

To learn more about your child’s nutritional needs

To read American Academy of Pediatrics articles on childhood nutrition, avoiding food traps, food allergies in children, choosing healthy snacks and more, please click here.