April is Global Child Nutrition Month. This month is designated to bring awareness of childhood malnutrition. Malnutrition in children leads to stunted growth, wasting, and a much higher risk of developing serious noncommunicable diseases including heart attack, stroke, and cancer. It’s the cause of 45% of deaths in children under the age of five.
Malnutrition is often thought of as only a second or third world problem and while it is more prevalent and leads to more deaths in these developing countries, malnutrition is also a problem in the United States, especially poorer states like Mississippi. Many parents don’t realize that overweight and obese children are also considered malnourished and at an increased risk for serious noncommunicable diseases.
Malnutrition is a serious and even deadly condition in anyone and children who survive malnutrition often suffer from developmental delays and stunted growth, among other problems. Fortunately, malnutrition can be treated at most stages, and it’s quite preventable with proper nutrition.
Mississippi offers several options to help prevent malnutrition in all children in our state, no matter their household income. Some of these options include WIC for pregnant mothers and children aged 0-5 years, SNAP-better known as food stamps, and local food pantries hosted by churches and other nonprofit organizations. Some school districts also offer free nutrition boxes to low-income students each month that include foods similar to those one receives in the WIC program. Visit your county health department to sign up for WIC and you can apply for food stamps at your county’s Department of Human Services office.
Even if your children appear to be at a healthy weight, they could still be suffering from a poor diet. In today’s busy families, fast food is often a go-to solution for dinner but it can wreak havoc on your child’s health and development. It’s never too late to change your family’s habits and FamilyDoctor.org offers excellent advice on how to transition your children into healthier eating habits. Some of their tips include:
- Start with breakfast. Getting plenty of protein is essential to starting the day. It helps kids stay fuller longer and overweight teens can start losing weight simply by eating a healthy, protein-filled breakfast. Some yummy options include peanut butter on whole-grain toast, egg sandwich on whole-wheat bread, and Greek yogurt.
- Make mealtime a priority. Children who sit down to eat meals with their parents are altogether healthier, happier, and perform better as students. You can help your children eat better simply by eating with them and making healthier dinner choices for yourself and them.
- Get your kids involved. We know those trips to the grocery store without the kids are sometimes the only break you get but when you do take them with you, introduce them to the healthier foods and let them pick out a few options. Letting them help you prepare dinner is another great way to get them interested in their own nutrition.
- Make small changes that make big differences in your family’s diet like switching from whole to low-fat milk and choosing whole-wheat and whole-grain bread instead of white.
Are you concerned about your child or your whole family’s nutrition? EliteCare can help you get on track. Just give us a call and request a primary care appointment for you and your children and share your concerns with our provider at your appointment. We can provide you with information on local and state nutrition programs and educate you on ways to start improving your family’s nutrition that day. Dial or text 662-348-3342 to request your appointment now.