As 2017 approaches, we have the opportunity to create new healthy habits for our families. There have been a number of studies over the years that have proven the importance of healthy eating habits in children with down syndrome and there is no better time than the present to put it into practice. There are a number of elements that go into implementing these habits. In addition to adhering to a diet that meets the nutritional needs of our children, it is also important to foster the “feeding relationship” between parents and children. When it comes to developing healthy habits, communication is key.
The purpose of defining a feeding relationship with your children is to encourage positive interaction at mealtime. It begins as an infant when a parent must learn how to read and respond to the hunger cues of their children. As a child grows, it is important to continue that communication and responsiveness. For example, toddlers with down syndrome often take more time to move around, prepare bites and swallow their food. In these situations, it is important for parents to be patient and allow the child to feel as though they have a say in their mealtime processes. Ultimately, this kind of relationship will foster the ability for a child to decide what is good for his or her body. As they grow and are presented with options, they will feel empowered to choose healthy. They will feel confident in communicating what their body needs and when their body needs it.
As most of us already know, digestive issues are more prominent in children with down syndrome, which means that ensuring healthy habits are in place is extremely important. This means promoting foods that are easy to digest and offer health and healing. Often times this means limiting the amount gluten, sugar and carbohydrates. When planning your next trip to the grocery store, focus on filling your cart with foods that are in their most natural state. We live in a world filled with heavy, manufactured foods and our goal should be to avoid those as much as possible for our children. Key power foods for children with down syndrome include kale, sweet potatoes, spinach, parsley and organic eggs. These foods will help to absorb the nutrients in a more natural and powerful way.
It’s not always easy to stick to healthy habits. Life gets busy and our kiddos love sugar. That being said, if we can foster a positive feeding relationship by teaching our children what foods will make them strongest, they will inherently be more in tune to their bodies and will choose to feed it accordingly. Let 2017 be a new year for healthy habits for your families! See what a difference it can make.