Dr. Katrina Paulding Recommends Proper Nutrition Should Start on Day One

Premier HealthNet Guidelines Provide Roadmap from Infancy to Adolescence

DAYTON, Ohio (Sept. 14, 2012) – It’s something parents worry about all the time and a question that family doctors hear just as often: “How do I get my child to eat nutritious foods?”

As any parent knows, ensuring that a child eats healthy foods can be a challenge. That challenge can be made easier by instilling good dietary habits at an early age, even in utero. The importance of instilling and fortifying proper nutrition from infancy through adolescence cannot be overstated, says Katrina Paulding, MD, a Premier HealthNet primary care physician practicing at Samaritan North Family Physicians in Englewood

“We literally are what we eat, so when we look at the formative years, especially in infancy, the importance of adequate nutrition cannot be stressed enough,” says Dr. Paulding. “The quality of the rest of a child’s life is set during toddlerhood.”

This is why nutrition is so important, Dr. Paulding says, as it helps to prevent conditions such as obesity as a child develops. More than one-third of U.S. adult men and women, 35 percent, were obese in 2009-2010, according to a January, 2012, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Study. For children and adolescents, the survey found 17 percent would qualify as obese.

“The mom who has the blessed opportunity to be carrying a child has the ability to start providing good nutrition during pregnancy,” Dr. Paulding says. “The baby is eating what Mom eats.”

Once a child is born, Dr. Paulding says that infants should either be taking balanced formula or, ideally, breast milk. Once the child has reached four to five months of age, parents should introduce solid foods, starting with iron-fortified baby cereal. Once the child reaches age one, whole milk may be introduced, but not before. Dr. Paulding says this is because whole milk contains a significant percentage of salt that young children can have trouble processing.

Contrary to the good intentions of many well-meaning moms, low-fat or calorie-restricted foods should not be introduced to children before age two, Dr. Paulding says, because full-fat foods are beneficial for brain development. About the time a child reaches age two or three, their appetite will decrease. This is when parents should feed children calorie-dense and vitamin-enriched foods, such as peanut butter (assuming no food allergies).  But, she cautions, stay away from junk food.

“Creativity is very important as the toddler ages,” Dr. Paulding says. “Be creative by cutting food up in cute ways, or use tricks to make nutritious foods look appealing, like making a smiley face.”

Around the first grade, parents should present their children a balanced, adult diet in a simplistic sense. If a plate is colorful, it’s balanced, Dr. Paulding says, adding, “The foods that provide the most vitamins are colorful, such as orange, dark green and vibrant red.”

If parents are concerned that they aren’t providing a healthy and nutritious diet, Dr. Paulding advises talking things over with a Premier HealthNet primary care physician, pediatrician or dietician, as well as taking a critical eye to their own pantry.

“Take a long look at what is in there, get rid of worthless calorie snacks and give away food that doesn’t belong,” Dr. Paulding said. “Write down healthy foods, plan out menus and only buy what is on your list. If you take out potato chips, replace them with grapes or vegetable chips so that you don’t feel deprived.” 

That’s not to say that treats should be cut out of a child’s diet completely.

“Children should look forward to having a treat every now and then,” Dr. Paulding said. “But there has to be a balance, because the more you let your kids have treats the more they will eat. Attentiveness and consistency are essential.”

For information on discussing family nutrition with a Premier HealthNet primary care physician near you, visit www.premierhealthnet.com/doctor.

Contact Us

Discover more about Premier Health and join us in building healthier communities in Southwest Ohio. Learn more about working at Premier Health, becoming a volunteer, and making a gift to support our mission.