Parents of medically challenged children need to take proactive steps to ensure that their kids are positioned to reach optimal levels of improvement. This is one of the reasons a growing number of families are choosing in-home long-term pediatric care. By receiving care at home, the child is in a safe and comfortable environment surrounded by loving family members. Another important factor is putting the child on a healthy diet.
For the typical child, a wide variety of foods from the five major foods groups are suggested. Each group contains essential nutrients (e.g., vitamins and minerals) that are important for development. A healthy pediatric diet may look something like this:
- Fruits: 2-4 servings per day of sliced fruit, whole fruit, and natural fruit juices, such as apples, bananas, oranges and pears.
- Vegetables: 3-5 servings per day of raw or cooked vegetables, or vegetable juice.
- Grains: 6-10 servings per day of cereal, bread, pasta, rice and other types of grain.
- Protein: 2-3 servings per day of lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs and other proteins.
- Dairy: 2-3 servings per day of low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products.
Children with certain medical conditions often need to modify their diets to address allergies and other adverse health issues. Here are some common special diets that are sometimes used to help in-home long-term pediatric care patients:
Gluten-Free Diet: Gluten is the protein that is found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley. The gluten-free diet is often used to help treat celiac disease, a digestive condition that causes the child to have an immune reaction to gluten. Another version of this diet, the gluten-free casein-free (GFCF) diet, goes one step further by eliminating casein, which is found in dairy products. The GFCF diet is often used to treat autism patients, the theory being that some autistic behaviors results from digestive problems.
Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD): This diet is even more restrictive than the gluten-free and GFCF diets, and is also used to treat celiac disease, autism, and other developmental disorders. With the SCD diet, all grains, lactose (natural sugar in dairy products), and sucrose (sugar added to most other foods) are eliminated. Foods allowed on this diet include meat, eggs, fruits, vegetables and nuts.
Body Ecology Diet: This diet is used for children with many types of health and behavioral problems. The idea behind it is to “re-colonize” the beneficial bacteria within the intestines by vastly reducing the consumption of sugar, and incorporating more probiotics into the diet.
Feingold Diet: This diet is named after Dr. Ben F. Feingold, a physician who established a link between diet and behavior in the 1960s. Through his research, Dr. Feingold found that eliminating artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, and sweeteners from the diet led to a significant improvement in behavior.
Ketogenic Diet: This is a high-fat, low-sugar diet used as a “last resort” to treat children with seizures. The downside to the Ketogenic Diet is it lacks many of the essential vitamins and minerals kids need for daily health. For this reason, it should only be employed under the direction of a qualified health professional.
Children with special needs often require special diets to help address those needs. As always, consult with a nutritionist and/or your in-home pediatric care provider before implementing these or any other special diets to determine if they will be beneficial for your child.