The global obesity pandemic has only grown worse in recent years, with research pointing out how more and more children deal with this harmful condition. Pediatric dietitians and nutritionists are here to help prevent children from reaching an unhealthy body mass index and support those who are on their weight loss journey.
A 100 years ago, it would have probably been ridiculous to even mention that a kid needs a dietitian. Mostly because the food they ate wasn’t as poor in nutrients and ultra-processed, but also because no one believed there was a need for it.
Today, we are dealing with more obese children than ever with pre-diabetes and diabetes, inflammatory bowel syndrome, autoimmune diseases, skin issues, and a variety of food intolerances and allergies. And even though that’s a very serious global condition, the emphasis on changing your kid’s dietary preferences and including a pediatric dietitian in the discussion has slowly crept up and become extremely important.
What Does a Pediatric Dietitian Do?
Parents are taught very little when it comes to raising kids, and even less so when it comes to their nutrition and nutrient needs. If they aren’t in the medical or otherwise wellness industry, cooking for a living, or generally interested in food and nutrition, it’s hard to even imagine they’ll have enough time to spend on research and all the contradictory data out there.
Pediatric dietitians are supposed to help parents make better decisions when it comes to their children’s diet, educate them on the importance of certain nutrients, as well as instill good eating practices in the kids themselves.
They are often reached out to by families that are struggling with their children’s body mass index as well as their pickiness when it comes to eating the food presented on their plates. They are also sometimes employed by daycares, kindergartens, and schools to help them design healthier meal plans for their students. This is an extremely important aspect you might want to check if the institution you’re taking your kids to has, as it might have a great and beneficial impact on their weight as well as their overall attitude toward food.
If your child sees other kids eating broccoli and carrots, they are more likely to eat them themselves. On the other hand, if the school only offers ultra-processed ready-to-eat foods such as Pop-Tarts and sugary cereal, they are probably not going to enjoy a healthy family breakfast.
Pediatric Dietitian vs. Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Not all pediatric dietitians are registered dietitian nutritionists, and if your kid is dealing with a serious health condition such as diabetes, severe allergies, or IBS, you’re probably going to look into seeing a professional with a specialty in managing these more severe issues.
A registered dietitian nutritionist is someone who’s met strict educational standards like obtaining at least a Bachelor’s degree in the field of nutrition, a complete internship, taking a board exam, and keeping on maintaining their educational level with a bare minimum of 75 hours every five years. Many registered dietitians choose to specialize in pediatric dietetics so that they can specifically help those kids and families who are struggling with serious health conditions that can impair their life quality.
How Does a Pediatric Dietitian Help?
There are multiple ways a pediatric dietitian can help you and your children. Some of the most common include:
- Initial assessment and growth analysis – a pediatric dietitian will make an initial assessment through a thorough examination and analysis of your kid’s weight, body mass index, diet, and other lifestyle habits that might have an influence on his health.
- Help with picky eating – many parents struggle when their kid gets into the age of choosing what to eat and what not to eat, oftentimes pushing the food around the plate or not eating at all. A pediatric dietitian can help develop strategies you can try to implement and make mealtime easier to navigate. Plenty of pediatric dietitians even have their own programs for parents so that they can try out a few different strategies and follow their tips to success.
- First solid food – some parents struggle with transitioning from breast milk to solids, especially if the kid has already started saying no to milk and hasn’t started showing any interest in actual real food. Additionally, starting solids can be scary as your kid is learning how to chew and swallow, potentially gagging and risking choking. A pediatric dietitian can help give you tips and ideas for what to give your kid and whether to go the “smoothie” route or implement the “baby-led weaning” technique.
- Child athlete nutrition – if your kid is following a specific sports and athletic program, there are different nutritional needs they need to achieve on a daily basis to support their workouts and performance. A pediatric dietitian can help educate you and your child on the best foods to make a part of their daily meals to make them perform at their best.
How to Find a Pediatric Dietitian?
When you’re interested in finding a pediatric dietitian to help with your kid’s needs, there are a few different ways to go about it:
- Word of mouth – ask around in the daycare, kindergarten, or your kid’s school. There might be parents already satisfied with a professional or the educational institution itself might have some information.
- Look for “Find an expert” on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. Any registered expert that gets into the database will pop up when you input your filters.
- Search for “Pediatric dietitian near me” on Google and read through reviews and testimonials.
- Ask your children’s regular pediatrician for recommendations for a dietitian in your area.
- Inquire about online sessions – some people might not have the luxury of a good pediatric dietitian in their area or they cannot attend in-person sessions for a different reason. Luckily, plenty of medical professionals today offer online sessions and even examinations so inquire about that if that’s your preference.
Getting help from a good pediatric dietitian can help your child learn and implement good eating practices, help them reach their optimal weight, and prevent inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, IBS, and others, as well as help them develop a good relationship with food so that they’re better equipped for the future. If your kid is dealing with or developing any form of eating problem, don’t hesitate to reach out to a pediatric dietitian and have them help you out.