As we start not only a new year but also a new decade, I thought it would be fitting to have some reflection.
This past year of the last decade in pediatric nutrition can be summed up in a famous phrase attributed to Hippocrates, 500 BC: “Let food be thy medicine!”
The last decade has seen a rise in awareness of how drugs alone are not the sole solution to health restoration. “Prevention is better than cure” and “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” are back in vogue.
A millennial parent is a person who advocates for their child and has great insight and access to as much knowledge as the day is long. The millennial parent trusts their intuition and questions authority.
Parents of previous decades were prepared to trust the doctor without question and their main goal was a quick cure. Parents of the latter part of this past decade are insisting on a more preventative and proactive approach. They are well-read and very conscious of what is and isn’t perceived as healthy. Health and food choices are becoming more and more linked to the greater environment and global sustainability. There is a growing awareness of how the way food is bought, prepared and eaten impacts not only their families’ health but the health of the wider community, locally and globally.
The pediatric nutrition community both internationally and policy-making bodies, like the European Society of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Paediatric Nutrition as well as the World Health Organisation, are placing more and more emphasis on preventative nutrition intervention. Programs like The First 1,000 Days – which targets pregnancy, infant and toddler nutrition – will continue to grow and pave the way for parents to be educated in proactive health and nutrition for their children.
The risk of fad nutritional trends or POP nutrition in this next decade is higher than ever. The industry is likely to take advantage of this as parents are desperate to do the “right” thing when it comes to their kid’s nutrition.
Let’s not, like we were in previous decades, be led by the industry for our nutrition guidance. Now is a better time than ever to look back in history to decades where medications were scarce, fresh seasonal food was easily available and families had time to cook and eat together. Getting simple and relational around food will solve many problems from picky eating to childhood obesity and therefore lifestyle diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
This is all exciting and positive, and like all good things, there are a few words of wisdom I would like to add to assist you with your nutritional parenting as we enter this next decade.
- Keep reading and asking questions
- You are your child’s greatest advocate
- Choose one or two key voices that you trust to filter the abundance of information you have access to
- Follow your gut and intuition
- Continue to look at the bigger picture without compromising the health of your family
- You build a healthy world by building healthy countries
- A healthy country is made up of healthy communities
- Healthy communities are built by healthy households
- Healthy households are the result of healthy little people
- This is where we can make the greatest impact – the nutritional health and well-being of the little people in our care
- Have a modern twist on old traditional recipes made famous by previous generations
- Use sustainable, local and seasonal ingredients
- Are easy, quick and made from scratch
- Cooking methods and waste take the environment into account
- Include one or more functional foods
- Can be made in bulk and frozen
- Ingredients can be substituted to create gluten/dairy-free, vegetarian or vegan versions
Kath Megaw (BSc Dietetics Hons, Diploma Paediatric Dietetics) holds four medical qualifications including a paediatric dietetic qualification from the prestigious Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA. She has been published in the Epilepsia journal on the use of the paediatric ketogenic diet in third-world settings and frequently speaks to groups of both professionals and parents on infant and childhood nutrition. Kath is the author of Real Food, Healthy, Happy Children (Quivertree Publications), the co-author of Feeding Sense (Metz press), The Low Carb Solution for Diabetics (Quivertree Publications), as well as co-author of Weaning Sense and Allergy Sense (Quivertree Publications). Kath has been in private practice for over 18 years and is the founder of Nutripaeds, a paediatric dietetic practice.