Malnutrition Awareness Week is upon us, so we sat down with FoundCare’s Chief Medical Officer and Board Certified Pediatrician, Dr. Oneka Marriott, to ask her a few questions regarding malnutrition in children.

Malnutrition occurs when there is a lack of proper nutrition, whether that comes from a lack of resources and not having enough to eat, or, having resources but not eating enough of the right foods.

How does a pediatrician determine if a child is malnourished? “Weight is the first thing that will change,” says Dr. Marriott; “if a child is below two or more percentiles on the growth chart, this may be a sign that that child is malnourished.”

Dr. Marriott points out that a malnourished child may display odd behavior at school or at home, but also recommends looking at the bigger picture. “Understanding developmental stages and what’s normal for your child is important”, she says. Dr. Marriott also makes it clear that it’s normal for children with once-healthy appetites to transition into being picky-eaters as they grow older, but that what isn’t normal is a case where a child loses their appetite completely.

Dr. Marriott also points out that a child does not necessarily have to be thin to be considered malnourished, as children who are overweight can be malnourished due to excessive food intake and the lack of proper nutrients. “The obesity epidemic is real,” stated Dr. Marriott, “[and] childhood obesity is growing.”  Dr. Marriott suggests encouraging movement and finding fun ways to incorporate exercise. She suggests doing a few push-up, sit-ups, or jumping jacks during commercial breaks while watching T.V, as a good way to encourage movement. She also encourages parents to incorporate a variety of healthier foods, especially for those picky eaters.

As everyone can be affected by malnutrition, it is important that families have access to help, when they are experiencing a lack of food. We recommend taking your child to the doctor regularly, to keep track of their growth and to model healthy behaviors. We also recommend modeling a good relationship with food for them.

If you or someone you know needs additional food resources, please visit the Palm Beach County Food Bank for a list of locations and additional information on how they can help:

FoundCare's pediatricians are dedicated to helping your child remain as healthy as possible. To schedule an appointment, please call 561-432-5849.

ASPEN Nutrition Poster