Happy Dietitian's Day! Check out the top 3 nutrition questions our dietitians receive (and their answers)
March is Nutrition Month, and a key player in maintaining healthy nutrition is the dietitian. Today, March 15, is Dietitians Day, a day dedicated to recognizing the important role of dietitians across Canada. Here at SickKids, our dietitians work closely with health-care professionals, patients and families to help children by developing individualized care plans, that may include IV or enteral tube feeding.
The expertise provided by the dietitians ensures that nutritional needs are assessed and addressed depending on a child’s clinical and medical status. Dietitians are the smart choice for advice on health eating, healthy nutrition and healthy living. They even provide advice to staff on how to maintain their nutrition at work. Here are the top three nutrition related questions and answers that patients or families ask SickKids dietitians (and two commonly asked by staff!).
Q: Does my child need a vitamin supplement?
A: Not all children require a multivitamin or single vitamin/mineral supplement. More is not necessarily better. When possible, the preference is to try and meet all vitamin and mineral needs through diet, however that is not always possible. Your child may have a health condition that may require a supplement so speaking with a Registered Dietitian or other health care provider is recommended in these instances. Most children in Canada require vitamin D supplementation, because it is difficult to meet needs from diet alone and sun exposure is limited.
Q: What is the normal amount of food a toddler should eat?
A: Toddlers should be offered three meals and two to three snacks at scheduled times throughout a single day. Meals and snacks should include a variety of nutritious foods. As much as possible, it’s important to have focused meal and snack times where children are encouraged to enjoy eating and do so without distraction. For beverages, toddlers should consume no more than ½ cup to ¾ cup of juice per day, and approximately two cups of milk per day.
For children aged two to three, the following are suggested quantity and sizes of servings per day:
- Four servings of fruits and vegetables. Serving examples: ½ cup of cooked vegetables, one piece of fruit (medium sized), ½ cup of natural orange juice
- Three servings of grains. Serving examples: one slice of bread, ½ cup of rice, pasta or quinoa.
- Two servings of milk and alternatives. Serving examples: 1 cup of milk, ¾ cup of yogurt, 3 tablespoons cheese.
- One serving meat and alternatives. Serving examples: 1/3 cup cooked meat/fish, ¾ cup legumes, 2 tablespoons peanut butter.
Q: What kinds of healthy snacks do you recommend?
A: Here are some healthy snack ideas:
- Homemade trail mix (no nuts for school!)
- Homemade granola with yogurt
- Lettuce wraps – with fish, chicken, legumes
- Vegetables + legume dips
- Fruits and cheese, cut in pieces for little hands! (not processed single slices!)
- Homemade nut/energy balls
- Popcorn trail mix
- Fruit and kefir (avoid drinkable yogurts, they can be very high in sugar)
- Flatbread bites with added vegetables
- Guacamole with vegetables, homemade baked pita chips or real corn chips
- Whole-grain homemade pizza bites (avoid frozen pizza pockets!)
Top questions from staff members
Q: Are organic foods healthier?
A: Not all foods labeled organic are necessarily healthier. For example, organic processed foods may be much higher in sugar or sodium, and not considered healthy options. Organic produce may not necessarily have higher nutrient content compared to conventional produce, depending on the travel distance and how food has been handled or stored. However, organic produce has been shown to have lower pesticide residues. In the end, it is up to the consumer to decide whether or not to choose organic foods. Being well informed about the differences between current conventional and organic farming practices in your area is recommended.
Q: Are low fat products healthier?
A: In general, a healthy approach to eating is to limit intake of foods that are high in fat. It’s best to avoid eating foods that have been fried, cooked in oil, or have extra fat added to the product. However, foods that are advertised as low fat may be higher in added salt and sugar (yogurt and dairy products are common examples). You can use the “% daily value” information on the nutrition facts table to help you understand if a product is high or low in fat. Dietary fat does have many benefits, one of which is to increase satiety which helps to regulate the appetite, and prevent overeating.