As most parents know, many children can be picky eaters and getting them to eat their fruits and vegetables has challenged parents for many decades. Especially for those youngsters diagnosed with SCD (Sickle Cell Disease), it is often associated with low calcium intake, vitamin D deficiency and a poor appetite, which can lead to delayed growth and development in any child.
If your kid is getting plenty of vitamin C and D, that’s fantastic, but as we all know, they also need to be eating well-balanced meals and getting other important nutrients. As parents, we’ve all used tricks to get our kids to eat, from the old airplane into the hanger routine as infants, to giving them chocolate milk so they’ll actually drink some, but sugary substitutes aren’t the answer.
Here are some other, lesser known ways to help them to eat healthier and feel better:
Drink Your Milk!
Some youngsters love milk and others despise it, some just tolerate this dairy drink, depends on the child, but if your kid just won’t drink milk, think of other options like yogurt, both low and full-fat varieties. There’s also plenty of other ways to get vitamin D with other food choices like carrots and spinach. If they don’t like milk, what about other healthy drinks, orange, apple and other fruit juices – just watch out for added sugar.
Eat Your Vegetables!
When I was a kid, my Mom would tell me that I should eat carrots, just like my favorite cartoon character, Bugs Bunny. She also told me my serving of broccoli were actually little trees and if I ate them, I would grow up to be just as tall and strong as they were. Whatever works! Try telling them their favorite athlete, celebrity or other person they may look up to always eats fruit, vegetables and drinks their milk.
However, with both of these examples, you shouldn’t demand they do something as the headings advise, this will make you appear as the food police or beverage enforcer. Ordering them to do something like “drink your milk” is likely to reinforce their resistance.
Level The Playing Field
Especially if you have other kids, or even if you don’t, make sure that your SCD child doesn’t feel like they are being punished or segregated by having to eat or drink differently. For example, you or their siblings shouldn’t be able to drink soda while the one suffering from SCD is forced to consume milk or juice. Everyone at the table should be eating the same healthy foods and drinking plenty of water, not just one person.
Take a Dip
Many parents are encouraging their children to eat more fruits and vegetables when they’re accompanied by a dip, say Ranch dressing for carrots or peanut butter with apples. But don’t just stick to the classics, like peanut butter on celery, experiment with other options, hummus, salsa, hazelnut spreads and other salad or yogurt based dressings. Dip isn’t just for chips.
The Forbidden Fruit
Although kids shouldn’t be eating fast food or drinking soda on a daily basis, don’t forbid them from doing so on rare occasions. Denying them an occasional treat will only make them want it even more. You may be buying them healthy cereals like Cheerios or Raisin Bran, but perhaps they could have sugared cereal when they visit their grandparents or when going on vacation. An occasional trip to McDonalds, especially with some of their healthier meals, probably won’t hurt them in the long run.
Getting kids to eat healthier should also be something they learn by example, your example. Join them, along with the rest of the family, and you’ll all be much happier and healthier.
By Mark Kirkpatrick