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Trimming Your Family’s Food Budget

Dear Elizabeth,
I have three kids and my husband recently lost his job so we’re on a really tight budget. Do you have any ideas to make sure our kids are at least eating right during tough times?
Maritza Pérez
Miami, Florida
Elizabeth's Tips
Elizabeth Sanchez
Elizabeth Sanchez
  • Provide your child with healthy well-balanced meals
  • Plan a weekly menu & make a shopping list
  • Determine your eligibility for social services
Expert Advice
Dr. Michael Bryant
Dr. Michael Bryant
Be Mindful of Your Child’s Growth and Development When Shopping
The most important thing for parents to understand--or caregivers to understand—is that proper nutrition is essential for proper growth and development of your child. Your child’s brain is going to grow tremendously in that first year of life. He or she is going to double his or her weight by 6 months of age, triple that by a year of age. In order to grow and develop properly, it’s essential that they have proper nutrition.

What Children Under 5 Need to Eat
This varies depending on the age of the child.

0 - 2 months:
Breast milk or formula

4 months:
May introduce rice cereal, but breast milk and/or formula still comprise the bulk of calories.

6 months:
May introduce baby food (this can be prepared at home [pureed] or purchased commercially). I usually recommend introducing one food each week starting with vegetables and then add a different food each subsequent week. In this way you know if a child develops an adverse (allergic) reaction to a certain type of food. The majority of calories continue to come from breast milk and/or formula however. 12 months: usually transition to whole milk and encourage the child to get off the bottle. These children will increasingly eat table food and hence talk less milk.

1 - 2 years:
This is when we usually transition a child to 3 meals a day and 2 snacks

2 - 5 years:
The diet of a child usually approximates that of the rest of the family, though the child may have his or her favorite foods.

Of note, a child does not have to eat a completely balanced meal (i.e. foods from each of the 4 food groups at each meal or even daily), once he or she has reached toddler age. It is important, however, that they get these food groups over a couple of days. Also a child's need for calories diminishes as he or she approaches 2 years of age.

When Kids Don’t Eat Well-Balanced Meals
Children who do not get proper nutrition may exhibit stunted growth. For instance the brain grows dramatically in the first year of life. We also see dramatic growth in weight and height (i.e. a child usually should double his/her birth weight by 6 months and triple it by one year of age). If a child does not receive adequate nutrition then usually we also see inappropriate growth parameters (specifically, head circumference, weight and height).

The bottom line is that proper nutrition is essential to proper growth and development. A properly nourished child is less likely to become ill and miss school as well.

Chicken Meal Ideas Featured Activity:
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Trimming Your Family’s Food Budget Featured Video:
Trimming Your Family’s Food Budget
Topic: Health & Safety
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