The outpatient clinic that I’m rotating through is in an under served area. Ensuring that children are receiving a healthy diet can be quite a challenge. First of all, many of the mothers in our population do not breastfeed their children. Even though there are numerous cataloged benefits to breastfeeding, we have a sizable chunk of mothers that do not breastfeed.
As the child transitions from formula to solid foods and other drinks, we try to encourage structured mealtimes and snacks. We specifically ask mothers how many cups of juice their child is drinking in a day to gauge the child’s level of sugar intake. Many people mistakenly believe that juice is healthy because it comes from a fruit. There is a lot of sugar in juice which can put the child at risk for obesity and dental issues. We try to discourage the consumption of chips, french fries, etc.
While many people simply do not know any better, the problem is compounded by the fact that the area that we serve is essentially a food desert. Grocery stores are rare. Many families simply do not have the resources to afford healthy meals. Even if they do have decent resources, access to nutritious foods is somewhat limited. I had a mother who predominately gave her child Hugs (which is essentially sugar water). If we have adolescents with high BMIs we try to encourage them to make better food choices. It is easier to have them set baby goals rather than revolutionize their entire diets. While the situations can be quite sad to see, we try our best to help our patients live healthy lives!