How Do You Know What’s Right for YOUR Child?
The right food and nutrition are pivotal when it comes to growth and development, and over the past 20 years, parents are often faced with conflicting information online when it comes to what’s going to make their children thrive and live a healthy life.
According to Pediatric Nutrition Expert Judy Converse, MPH RD LDN, founder of Nutrition Care For Children LLC, doctors don’t have consistent requirements for providing the right information for nutrition. Converse knows this first-hand, having had a child who faced food allergies and other symptoms that affected his growth and development.
“Back when my son was born, there was no Internet and we felt like we were in a cave when it came to finding the most helpful information,” she said. “I remember digging out all my old textbooks, and because I’d worked in maternal and infant health before, I knew what ‘normal’ looked like in terms of growth and feeding, and what I was seeing wasn’t that.”
Converse earned her master’s degree in public health, focusing on nutrition, and has a bachelor of science degree in human nutrition and foods; she’s a registered dietitian and licensed dietitian/nutritionist. After finding that no one was helping with her infant son’s feeding and allergy challenges, she decided to start a private practice in 1999. She explains to parents that her mission is “your kids get to be healthy.”
“Over the last two decades, more and more children are struggling when it comes to healthy nutrition, and more than half have a chronic condition, illness, or disability,” said Converse.
She added that it can be daunting to parents who don’t have resources to help their children and that there’s still not enough conversation about their struggles.
“My mission is to leverage food and nutrition to promote health, because right now, the way our health care system works, pediatricians are not equipped to manage nutrition monitoring and support,” said Converse.
When Do Parents Seek Help?
When children exhibit some of the following, it could mean that these are contributing factors to poor health:
- Picky eating
- Struggles with weight gain and growth
- Having Autism, ADHD, asthma, eczema
- Constipation, reflux, other GI issues
- Potty training delays, encopresis
- Lack of energy or difficult sleep patterns
- Sick often, chronic sniffles and colds, or numerous cavities
- Has a mitochondrial disorder, needs help with tube feeding or other conditions
When asked what she would tell parents who are worried about their child’s growth patterns, Converse said they must trust their intuition and listen to what their heart is telling them.
“Remember, at the end of the day, parents are in charge,” she added. “If your kids aren’t progressing the way you think they should, then it’s probably time to seek a first opinion with a pediatrician. You may also need to ask for a referral to a specialist, according to your child’s needs. And if you still feel something isn’t right, take the time to investigate, explore, and research because there are tools that can help solve kids’ health problems, so they can really feel and function better. problems.”
How Nutrition Care Works
Converse consults with parents all over the world and she can work with physicians anywhere to come up with an assessment that helps her provide clients with the tools they need to change their children’s nutrition. Converse establishes a baseline of a child’s nutrition status by looking at growth pattern, food diaries, lab studies, clinical signs, and detailed history.
Once she’s completed her assessment, she generates a detailed care plan for the child, to be carried out by the family. This working document is used at each appointment, where adjustments are made based on progress. The document is designed so it can travel with a child’s medical chart if necessary, to be used in other settings such as neurology or gastroenterology. The instructions in the document are explicit and include homework to do until the next meeting. Parents can work with their medical team using the tools Converse provides to try new recipes, learn out how to eat out with new diet restrictions, how to work with schools and teachers, figure out how much food a child needs, and how to use supplements if required, which ones, what doses, and what format.
“Usually in three-to-six encounters, we’re set, and families have a successful plan going forward,” said Converse. “These meetings are typically spread out across anywhere from three months to a year.”
She also works with medically fragile children who need a lot more support. This includes tube-fed kids, those in feeding therapy, those with autism, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, or epilepsy, for example. Nutrition support can profoundly improve these children’s lives. These families usually require ongoing support, at their discretion from one-to-two years with four-to-six visits per year.
Converse sees clients approximately ten to twelve families per week. She refuses to rush through appointments because often families come in exhausted, frightened and traumatized. On the other days, she’s following up on her case work and is creating an online learning series about ADHD and how it relates to nutrition, where she relies on evidence-based research about replenishing the brain as well as her twenty years’ first-hand clinical experience in using nutrition to optimize outcomes for kids with ADHD. This will be a program which parents can use interactively, and more topics are in the pipeline.
“No matter what the family’s culture or background is, we all want our children to feel well,” said Converse. “This is why I do what I do. And the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. When parents use the tools I provide, they’re nearly shocked that something so relatively simple can turn their kids’ lives around.”
One family, whose seven-year-old son had FPIES (Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome, which triggers copious amounts of projectile vomiting over several hours and can lead to the child passing out from dehydration), was only able to digest three different foods. Converse was able to capture information on an obscure parasite that was causing his gut trouble. After giving him herbal support, probiotics, specific supplements to replenish missed nutrients, and a careful plan to slowly introduce certain foods, he began to be able to tolerate more food, and after seven months he could tolerate 30 different foods. Now he’s able to play sports and participate in a regular lifestyle, whereas previously, he wasn’t well enough to do so.
Converse’s short-term goals for Nutrition Care are to continue her day-to-day assessments of children and help them start to improve within the first four weeks. Ongoing care can mean three to six visits, after which children have been redirected to a healthy eating plan. The result is that they are happier, healthier, and able to flourish and thrive as they get older. In the longer term, Converse plans to have online clickable programs that provide basic guidance to help families with their kids, and fill in the pediatric care gap, whether this pertains to FPIES, ADHD, getting kids off laxative drugs like MiraLAX®, eliminating eczema, or management of specific food allergies.
“Kids make amazing turnarounds if their bodies are given the right support, and they can begin eating the right foods,” added Converse. “They become calmer, more focused, less anxious and depressed. Kids on the spectrum can stop self-injurious behavior, as well as aggression, without prescription drugs, in many cases. I’m happy to be able to help young infants to kids all the way up to the age of 18 get a focused nutrition plan, which has a huge impact on growth and mental fitness throughout the years.”
You can reach Judy at her website anytime, where you can peruse her many blog topics, recipes, or send her a question.