Healthy Growth

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Growth is a measure of health and nutrition. It is important to check your child’s weight and height and use growth charts to determine if they are in a healthy range and growing appropriately. 

Your WIC nurse and dietitian will use and go over the child’s growth chart each time the height and weight are measured. Ask to see it, if it is not shown to you. Your child’s weight should increase gradually as your child grows taller.

What if my child is overweight?

A large increase in weight without an increase in height may mean your child is becoming overweight or obese.

Children who are obese or overweight are more likely to become obese or overweight adults. Today 1 in every 3 children and teens in the US is overweight or obese. Our current generation of kids have a lower life expectancy than their parents due to obesity.

Overweight adults and some very overweight children may have problems with:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Blood Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Stroke

Help your child stay healthy

You can help your child stay healthy and prevent a weight problem by:

  • Making good food choices
  • Teaching healthy eating habits
  • Encouraging active play

Tips to help children be at a healthy weight

Eating (Infants)

  • Breastfeed! Breastfeeding helps babies to maintain appropriate weight because they only take exactly what they need. It also helps regulate their blood sugars which affects weight gain for the rest of their life. Bottle fed infants can easily be overfed which can lead to overweight infants/children/adults. It’s important if bottle feeding to try and mimic breastfeeding so baby determines how much milk to take, such as starting with smaller amounts in the bottle and only giving more if infant is still acting hungry, not forcing infant to finish bottle if they are acting done, pace bottle feeding and use a slow flow nipple so they take at least 15-20 minutes. 
  • When starting baby food around 6 months and later advancing to table foods, stick to healthy foods and avoid processed foods. Give a wide variety so infant gets exposed to many different tastes and textures. Continue to limit processed foods as child gets older and they will be more accepting of healthy foods like fruits and vegetables that will help keep them at a healthy weight.
  • Don’t start juice before 12 months and avoid or limit it after. Juice has a lot of sugar and kids tend to drink less water if they have juice and may fill up on juice and not eat healthy foods. This also goes for other sugary beverages (chocolate milk, sports drinks, kool-aid, etc.)

Eating (12+ Months)

  • Encourage your child to cook healthy meals with you. Take time to sit down and eat together.
  • Have your child taste test new fruits and vegetables and find new favorites.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nuts or seeds for snack time. Keep choking risks in mind for younger children.
  • Help kids choose plain water, skim or 1% white milk, or 100% fruit juice instead of sugary beverages like soda.

Physical activity

  • Encourage at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, preferably outdoors.
  • Walk or bike with your kids to school and to their activities.
  • Take family walks, hikes, and try new sports together. Play games outside instead of watching TV indoors.
  • Model healthy behaviors for your kids and make fitness a family priority.

Limit screen time

  • For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.

See Healthy Eating Tips for Parents for more information on raising healthy eaters.

What if my child is underweight?

They may need help getting the calories and nutrients they need. Try these high calorie diet boosters:

  • Cheese – Cube as a snack, melt over vegetables, potatoes, toast, or casseroles, or grate into eggs, rice, soup, and hot cereal
  • Offer whole milk.
  • Use full-fat yogurt and puddings.
  • Add peanut butter to bread, crackers, toast, and apple slices.
    • Note: thickly spread peanut butter is a choking hazard for children, especially under 2 years of age. See section on Choking.
  • Put butter or mayonnaise on vegetables, breads, hot cereals, potatoes, crackers, sandwiches, soups and casseroles.
  • Add evaporated milk in place of milk in baked goods, cooked cereals, and creamed soups.
  • Use powdered nonfat dry milk to make “super-milk” by adding ¼ cup powdered milk to 1 cup whole milk, or to milkshakes or yogurt (refrigerate before drinking).
  • Add 2 tablespoons powdered milk to ½ cup mashed potatoes or ½ cup powdered milk to a pound of ground meat to add extra calories.
    • Note: children under age 2 should not be served powdered milk to drink by itself, but it can be used to add calories to foods.
  • Add Instant Breakfast to whole milk or instant pudding for a sweet treat.

Make Mealtime Count

  • Serve 3 meals plus 2 to 3 planned snacks per day. Make sure snacks are at least 2 hours before a meal. 
  • Make meals tasty and fun for the child. Serve “finger foods” that are easy to handle. Keep servings small and offer seconds. 
  • Don’t scold the child if everything is not eaten. Serve child size portions of healthy foods, but let child decide when he is full. Allow meals to be a pleasant time by not having food battles!
  • Have children eat with the rest of the family at the table. Children seem to eat more when they are eating with others. 
  • Allow for some “quiet time” before family meals to let the child slow down.
  • Try new ways of preparing foods. Some children will eat raw foods but not cooked, or hot but not cold. Allow your child to help fix new foods and plan when to serve them.
  • Avoid large amounts of cookies, candy, cake, chips, pop & Kool-Aid. Sweet snacks are low in nutrients and “fill up” a child too quickly.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

This post was last updated on November 7th, 2022 at 5:45 PM

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