Monday, June 8, 2009

Making Up for What's Missing

Last week, I went to the UFAN Salt Lake City chapter meeting. The speaker was Sharlene Coombs, a Registered Dietician at Primary Children’s Medical Center. She’s one of the few pediatric dieticians in this area that knows a lot about food allergies and how to ensure a child with food allergies is still getting the nutrition they need.

It’s a common problem – and one we tend not to think about as much when our child is first diagnosed with food allergies. There’s so much emphasis on what the child can’t eat, that we forget to think too much about what they’re missing when we cut out those foods.

The obvious example is if we eliminate milk, of course there will be a reduction in the amount of calcium the child is getting. That one’s easy to spot. You can supplement calcium with calcium-fortified fruit juices, but that doesn’t supplement the Vitamin D that is also missing. Hmm. I hadn’t thought about that Vitamin D problem.

We humans get a lot of different types of nutrition from a wide variety of foods. If we start eliminating some of those foods, we start missing out on different vitamins, minerals, proteins, and maybe even the healthy bacteria that live in our stomachs and aid digestion.

So what do we do about it? A great place to start, said Ms. Coombs, is by tracking the foods our child IS eating every day. There are websites that can help you do that – you enter the food you or your child eats every day, and the website will calculate where you might be missing out. The "My Food Pyramid" website is a good example. Go there, then select MyPyramid Plan to get a general idea of how many calories and servings of different food types you should be eating. Choose MyPyramid Tracker, and you can enter all the foods you’ve eaten in the last 24 hours to see where you’re missing out on vital nutrition.

From the information you gather, you can begin to see where you might be deficient in certain vitamins or other nutrients, and you can begin to research ways to add those nutrients back into your diet.

If you need more help, you can go see a dietician like Ms. Coombs. She recommends that you go armed with a list of everything your child has eaten during the previous three days, including the little extras like sugar sprinkled on fruit, the margarine on that piece of toast, etc. Then the dietician can get a better image of how the child eats and what might be missing in his or her diet.

Not that we needed more to worry about, but it’s good to know that there are tools (and experts) who can help us find ways to keep our children healthy.

And it won’t hurt me to find out what my own diet is lacking, either. (I’m guessing MyPyramid won’t much like that half-bag of potato chips I ate yesterday.)

1 comment:

Pascale said...

You were actually able to stop after half a bag? I never can! :-)