The hustle and bustle of the holidays can bring about dietary changes that impact children and adults. Keeping meals well-balanced and limiting fast food and processed foods during these hectic days can go a long way to ensure that children stick to regiments that avoid tummy aches and trips to the pediatrician.
All parents know that children need healthy well-balanced meals with plenty of fluids and physical activities to grow and develop. We talked to the pediatric nutrition and gastroenterology specialists at MUSC Children’s Health to learn more about healthy eating and some of the ailments that may occur from unhealthy eating.
Amber Johnson, an MUSC Children’s Health pediatric registered dietician, offered parents a number of tips for maintaining a healthy diet for their children, especially during the holidays.
- Make fruits and vegetables part of the daily routine, aiming for three servings of each a day and making them part of every meal.
- Keep fruits and vegetables on hand so children easily find healthy snacks. Snacks such as yogurt, hummus and vegetables, peanut butter on celery or apples can be great and easy choices for snacks.
- Offer lean meats and other good sources of protein like fish and eggs.
- Provide healthy fiber sources such as quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal, farro, and millet, beans and legumes and whole grain pasta.
- Limit unhealthy fats by avoiding fried foods and consider alternative cooking methods like broiling, steaming and boiling. Incorporate healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados and nuts and seeds into your daily diet.
- Avoid and limit fast food and low-nutrient snacks such chips and candy.
- Limit sugary drinks like soda and or fruity drinks with high sugar content; try fruit infused water or flavoring packets such True Lemon or Stur.
- Be a good role model by eating healthy foods in front of your children and eating meals together as a family.
Holidays aside, there will be times when a child experiences abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation or other abdominal maladies.
John Mark Stone, M.D., a board-certified pediatric gastroenterologist at MUSC Children’s Health, recommends that parents start with their family physician or child’s pediatrician who will be well-versed in handling any changes to their child’s regiment and will refer the child to the pediatric GI and nutrition specialists at MUSC Children’s Health if needed. Or parents, also can contact the specialists directly by scheduling an appointment at musckids.org/appointments.
The 2019-2020 edition of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals has ranked MUSC Children’s Hospital as a “best hospital” for pediatric gastroenterology and GI surgery.
Dr. Stone said the GI and Nutrition Clinic at MUSC Children’s Health sees a wide variety of gastro ailments in the clinic ranging from reflux to unknown causes of abdominal pain to things like functional disorders such as IBS and abdominal migraine and inflammatory bowel disease to constipation to unknown causes of diarrhea as well as many others.
Dr. Stone said, “Diseases like inflammatory bowel disease sometimes can go into remission just with dietary changes.” Often more common ailments like constipation and abdominal pain can be treated with adding fiber and more fluids to the diet or making behavior and lifestyle changes.
“Some cases have been refractory to basic management or have other complicating factors or symptoms that go along with them like significant abdominal pain, abdominal distention, urinary accidents or stooling accidents. Some have not responded well to management and have other symptoms that may be more significant,” he said.
With some functional disorders they can do a lot of testing, imaging, lab work, endoscopy and colonoscopy and still have difficulty finding any reason for the disorder.
The GI team likes to keep the primary care or pediatrician aware of how they are treating the patient so he/she can be on board and help with the management of the situation too.
He added that nutrition is a huge part of the primary intervention and that there are a number of dietary treatments that are used in caring for patients. He said, “Dieticians are always an important part of the management for the cases we treat.”
To learn more about GI and nutrition, or to schedule an appointment, visit musckids.org or call (843) 792-1414.