Healthy Eating Habits in Children with Down Syndrome
Studies have shown that parents and children all do better if we understand our roles and responsibilities when it comes to feeding and mealtime, and there are many benefits of defining roles and responsibilities in the “Feeding Relationship” between parents and their children. The purpose of defining roles is to promote a positive interaction between parents and children during mealtimes and when making food choices. The first communication with babies centers on feeding. When you hold an infant and feed from a bottle or breast, there is a natural interaction that occurs. You look in your baby’s eyes and pay attention to his gestures and movements to know when he is tired or full.
- Explore new foods together. Go to the store and find something totally new in the produce section, or try a new shape of pasta.
- Once a month, choose a new recipe with your child that you prepare together. Plan for a mess, and enjoy the time you spend together learning new things and developing new skills.
- Always build in choices. When your child is young, for example, the development of “healthy habits” centers on learning to communicate and choose. So be sure to provide visual representations of food, such as photos and wrappers, or teach sign language for various foods.
- Involve your child in menu planning at an early age. Even if you don’t plan more than 30 minutes in advance, be sure to give your child the opportunity to choose one item on the menu or between different snack options.
Anyone can participate in these activities, though it can take some creative thinking.
NDSS thanks Joan Guthrie Medlin for preparing this piece.
Weight Management for Adults with Down Syndrome
Adults with Down syndrome are more likely to be obese than their typically developing peers. Sometimes it is the result of untreated hypothyroidism. If there are new symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as increased sleepiness, confusion, or mood changes, then the individual’s primary doctor should consider running a blood test to check thyroid function. There is also a suggestion that people with Down syndrome may have a lower level of metabolism, i.e. their bodies may consume less calories and therefore store more.
More generally, though, weight management issues in individuals with Down syndrome are often due to the intake of too many calories in relation to the level of physical activity. Strategies for treating and preventing obesity involve:
- Lowering portion sizes
- Emphasizing healthy ingredients that increase bulk (like fiber, fruits and vegetables)
- Making smart choices on drinks and desserts
- Avoiding snacks
- Empowering adults to monitor their own weight
- Involving supervisors at work and school on the treatment plan
- Preparing lunch at home
- Never using food as a reward
- Introducing a daily exercise routine that is appropriate to the person’s interests and skills
If there is no underlying medical condition contributing to an individual with Down syndrome’s weight, then he or she can use the same basic strategies as anyone else would to lose weight: excercise, portion control and healthy food choices.