Helping Parents Get Big Nutrition Into Little Tummies
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
This is a significant year for early childhood nutrition. For the first time, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans will offer guidance for optimal nutrition from birth to 24 months of age and parents are sure to have questions. Now is the perfect time for retail dietitians to become a trusted source of credible information to overwhelmed parents and caregivers by providing simple nutrition tips and feeding solutions. Here are some considerations and resources to help you put together an effective communication plan:
- Parents are trying to find balance. Caregivers are juggling a lot these days. Make your recommendations easy, accessible and affordable. Demonstrate your understanding of their crazy schedules and remind parents that they don’t have to be perfect. This empathy will help you build better rapport while encouraging small changes that can have positive health outcomes.
- Instill a sense of confidence. Many parents are curious about topics such as baby led weaning and what foods to offer as their infant grows. Listen to concerns and supply information on how to determine developmental cues for feeding, and the basics of baby led weaning. Again, keep resources easy to implement so parents can build confidence.
- Reduce feeding fears. From choking to allergies, many parents have fears when it comes to feeding their infants. Offer relief by discussing how to successfully handle these issues with the appropriate resources. Share any health attribute tag programs you may have regarding allergens and highlight commercial baby food products that meet a variety of needs.
- Focus on key nutrients of need. For infants and young children, nutrients such as iron and zinc are critically important in supporting proper growth and development and after 6 months breastmilk is not enough to meet these nutrient needs alone. One easy solution is to offer pureed beef as a complementary food. Share this fact sheet that provides tips on how to start infants on solid foods and explains the nutrients that are of critical importance to an infant’s physical and mental development.
- Provide ethnically diverse solutions. Have an awareness of the cultural infant feeding beliefs and practices of your customer base and make sure the resources and recommendations you are providing fit the diverse needs of your shoppers.
- Meet parents and caregivers where they are. You need to be creative when reaching these busy customers. Create a video showing how to prepare a nourishing family meal that can also be pureed or finely chopped for toddlers and babies such as this Ground Beef & Pasta Skillet Primavera recipe. Hold a virtual class discussing baby led weaning and include a demo of nutrient-rich recipes. Share handouts and videos with local parenting groups and add links to resources in digital ads during baby week promotions. Be sure to also include new eating utensils and plates that your store(s) sell to make infant and toddler feeding more successful. The goal is to show parents how to enjoy food with their family while helping them develop competence with feeding their kids nutrition-rich meals.
DISCLOSURE: Shari is a member of the Beef Expert Bureau, managed by National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff.