Recently, I was at my friend’s child’s birthday party. Everything was there that you’d expect: presents, a birthday cake and as much ice cream to give the kids’ dentists a lucrative season. Not exactly the kind of food that healthy kids normally eat. These are all once-in-a-while indulgences.
While the kids were mingling and my two children running off and playing, I got to talking to a party guest who began telling me about his son’s weight struggle.
The struggle was this: his son had trouble gaining weight.
“He was losing weight,” the father said. “I didn’t know what to do so I went to my Pediatrician and he suggested that my kid eat more. He said I should feed him ice cream. And as much ice cream he can eat.”
First time I’ve ever heard of a doctor suggesting to give a patient ice cream in good conscience. Isn’t he aware of the childhood obesity epidemic? Isn’t he aware of how persuasive kid’s tastes are? What about childhood diabetes? How could a doctor, a trained medical professional, suggest ice cream as a healthy way for a kid to put on a few pounds?
“That’s what his doctor suggested. He’s a professional,” the party guest proudly stated with a smile.
The word professional didn’t compute well with what the doctor recommended. To gain weight by way of ice cream? That wasn’t right.
Running a website catered toward kids and healthy eating habits made me fully aware of what was healthy and what wasn’t healthy—not even that, but being a parent of two made me fully aware that giving a child ice cream to put on a few extra pounds is not the right thing to do (mother’s intuition at its best.)
Even though the party was long over, I couldn’t help but keep thinking of this conversation.
Do you need ideas on how to help your child gain weight in a safe way?
How Much Do Pediatricians Know About Diet and Nutrition?
The fact is some Pediatricians and doctors may know very little about nutrition. While well intentioned, they do not always offer the best advice when it comes to nutrition and helping to overcome picky eating.
Doctors’ schooling in dietary needs is slim. One in four doctors feel that they don’t have adequate schooling in nutrition (1). That’s 25 percent of doctors!
A recent study shows, that the national average of how many hours a physician is trained per year on nutrition actually dropped from approximately 22 hours to about 19 hours between the years of 2004 and 2009; the recommended number of hours a year by the National Academy of Sciences is 25 to 30 hours (2). That means a staggering number of med schools are not offering enough hours of training, 30 percent of med schools to be exact.
What Does All This Mean?
It means your child’s doctor may not be properly prepared to give your kid nutritional advice. So going back to the party guest’s proclamation that his doctor, a trained professional, suggested ice cream— it doesn’t seem too farfetched. But it’s still ridiculous!
“So why shouldn’t you give your kid ice cream?” you ask. “Where’s the harm?”
Ice cream is full of sugar and sugar is extremely addictive. If you don’t believe me try not to eat that last piece of a chocolate bar next time you splurge at the checkout counter. Sugar is sneaky and has been found to be more addictive than street drugs!
Recent studies suggest, that it is as addictive as illegal narcotics, like cocaine and like any drug it has withdrawal symptoms. So next time someone says they’re on a sugar high, remember it’s not just a metaphor.
Sugar is an Empty Calorie
This means that there is absolutely no nutrition beyond its calories. This will put your child at risk for childhood obesity and future health issues. Not only can sugar cause obesity and type-2 diabetes, it has been linked to cardiovascular disease, liver disease and other sever medical conditions (3).
So if you’re kid is consuming ice cream, they’re missing out on vital nutrients needed in order to grow. Growth shouldn’t just be seen as growth in the waistline, but as an overall development; the development of mind, body and functionality. And this development is governed by—you guessed it—what you eat!
Two thirds of all children do not eat enough fruits and vegetables. Each time you give your chid an empty calorie, you are displacing a healthier foods like vegetables (4).
Your Healthy Kids Are Hooked On Sugar. Now What?
Once you get your kids hooked on sugar, their taste will change. This is called pervasive palate. So as soon as your kid does gains a few pounds from ice cream, it’s not going to be easy to get them off the sweets. Why would he eat that broccoli if he could have a nice, doctor-prescribed serving of ice cream? Why would she eat that carrot if she could have some chocolate?
What you’re essentially doing is training your kid to eat poorly. This will have dire consequences down the road. It is the parent’s job to create a healthy lifestyle for their child and show them how they should eat by example; and it is the doctor’s job to reinforce this healthy lifestyle, not undermine it.
So instead of ice cream, what are the healthy—and I mean healthy—options? There are plenty of ways to help boost your child’s eating and create healthy kids.
Here are just a few:
Healthy Fatty Foods
There are plenty of healthy, fatty foods your child can eat and enjoy that aren’t high in sugar.
- Avocados are a great source of healthy fats.
- Coconut Oil is a great source of good fatty acids.
- Nuts such as walnuts and almonds are high in Omega-6 fats.
- Nuts spreads are an amazing way to get extra calories and nutrition.
- Seeds, like watermelon seeds are filled with good fats, iron and magnesium.
- Eggs are high in many essential nutrients and raise good cholesterol levels.
- Olives are high in lots of antioxidants.
- Pastas such as whole wheat or bean pasta are high in calories, healthy carbs and protein.
You can create meals using these healthy alternatives such as baked avocado fries and Greek yogurt mac and cheese. You should always be on the look out to find further recipes that will help support healthy, nutritional eating.
Here are some recipes with super foods and pastas to help promote healthy eating here:
- Superfood Recipes Your Kids Will Love
- Making Food Fun: Black Rice, Black Pasta and Black Quinoa
- 20 Fun and Unique Crock Pot Recipes Your Kids Will Love
- Sweet and Salty Nut and Seed Butter Recipes
Some Pediatricians may suggest drinking more milk, but this may make your kid full and unable to eat enough during actual mealtime. The same goes for juices. It’s important to not give your kids juice. If your child consumes juice throughout the day, they are more likely to not be hungry when its time for a meal.
Eating with the Family
Having mealtime with the family will help teach kids to eat more. Children are real impressionable and if they watch you eat, their siblings eat or the family friend over for dinner eat, they are more likely to pick up that fork and have a healthy serving. Introducing those healthy, fatty foods into dinners will help add those few, essential pounds.
This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s not. Your child needs a healthy amount of exercise to gain an appetite. The more your kids run around and play, the hungrier they will get. Play is essential in building a healthy appetite. So try and turn off that TV, get them away from those video games and have them run around outside. Maybe even sign them up for a sports league, the choice is yours.
Sadly, Pediatricians are inadequately trained in your child’s nutritional needs. This lack of knowledge unfortunately can come in the form of poor advice that could detrimentally affect your child’s health and eating habits. Doctor’s should be trained on nutrition and aware that they’re a professional and that they’re advice will be taken to heart.
So next time your child’s Pediatrician gives you nutritional advice be sure to ask questions, research their suggestions and be open to finding advice elsewhere. Potentially, seek out a Pediatric Nutritionist or a Dietician—someone who is trained on the subject.
And whatever you do DON’T give your kids ice cream to help them gain weight. Nutrition and wellness is a journey, while seemingly well meaning, you may receive advice that can undermine your desire to create a healthy lifelong eater.
Sources and Additional Information:
Bipartisan Policy Center: Are America’s Physicians Prepared to Combat the Obesity Epidemic?
The Washington Post: Your doctor says he doesn’t know enough about nutrition or exercise
Mayo Clinic: Kids and Sugar