Pediatrician Tanya Altmann thinks about kids pretty much 24/7. Her child-centric hats include spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, clinical professor at UCLA, medical adviser to The Newborn Channel, and founder of Calabasas Pediatrics, her practice in Southern California. And then there are her three sons, ages 10, 8, and 16 months. In light of her newest book, What to Feed Your Baby, we asked the bestselling doctor-mom to share some of her best advice and family favorites:
Best first solid food: Avocado. It’s high in healthy fat, potassium, and fiber—and easy to puree or fork mash.
What’s always in my pantry: Cheerios—3 grams of fiber, no fake colors, and 5 simple ingredients. My 16-month-old will open the cupboard and go right to the big yellow box.
Best snacks for a hangry child: Hummus and carrot sticks; string cheese and whole grain crackers; apple and peanut butter; Greek yogurt and berries. These are my kids’ favorites.
My go-to quick weekday dinner: Baked chicken, steamed broccoli, and quinoa.
Best family dinner conversation starter: “Name one great thing that happened today.”
A great resource for nutrition info that’s over overlooked: Your pediatrician! Nutrition is the foundation for raising a healthy child. Parents should always discuss their child’s nutrition with the pediatrician at every well-child visit. Too often important nutrients are missing from a child’s diet, even if they’re growing well. I commonly see a lack of protein, calcium, or vitamin D that isn’t always obvious to parents.
Food pouches—thumbs up or thumbs down? Thumbs down unless you’re traveling and need back-up baby food in your suitcase or diaper bag. Feed your baby or toddler real food, so they can see what they’re eating. They’ll get used to the smell and taste of real food and learn to regulate their own satiety.
What I tell parents of picky eaters that surprises them most: Your child won’t starve to death. Stop catering to him or her and serve one meal for the entire family.
My pet peeve parenting trend: Taking your child off dairy for no important medical reason. I see too many undernourished kids drinking nut milk because their parents don’t realize that they aren’t equivalent drinks. Almond milk doesn’t have enough protein and calories for a young child. If you choose to give your family almond milk, it’s important to supplement your child’s diet appropriately.
The most important item in my medicine cabinet: Children’s Tylenol for fever and pain reducer because with kids you never know when you’ll need it, especially in the middle of the night!
My secret weapon for befriending young patients: Letting them listen to their own heartbeat. It’s so exciting!
One thing never to say to your kid in front of the doctor: Don’t lie to your child that they won’t get a shot or that it won’t hurt.
Best advice my own kids’ doctor has told me: Start plain water at 6 months of age. No juice!
Best parenting advice I ever got: Time passes whether you do anything with it or not (from my grandpa, a cardiologist and internist). Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can finish today because it’s going to be next week or next year before you know it—and if you wait or procrastinate, you likely won’t get it done.
A bedtime ritual I love is: Bath, book, and bedtime.
A family ritual we love: After-dinner neighborhood walks.
Family tradition I wish we’d started sooner: Having the kids make dinner once a week.A skill every kid should have that’s seldom taught: To always say “please” and “thank you.”
My favorite children’s book you probably never heard of: My Mama Says There Aren’t Any Zombies, Ghosts, Vampires, Creatures, Demons, Monsters, Fiends, Goblins, or Things by Judith Viorst.http://amzn.to/294l4iW
Favorite movie at our house: The Princess Bride.
A parent/family-friendly app I use a lot: Common Sense Media to evaluate movies, books, and video games before I introduce them to my kids.
My take on kids and screen time: Technology can be the best and the worst. Teach your kids how to navigate the digital world slowly. It’s hard to take a step back, so don’t give them access to too much too soon. And NO recreational screen time on school days!
One thing parents worry about but shouldn’t: That their child isn’t eating enough.
One thing parents don’t worry about but should: That their child isn’t eating the right foods.
3 things (large or small) I really wish all parents knew:
- Routines are formed in as little as 3 days and broken in less than 24 hours.
- Your kids don’t really need that many toys.
- What you feed them in the first year of life will determine their eating habits the rest of their life.
My definition of a great kid: Happy, healthy, and polite.
My motto as a mom: Enjoy every moment.