With a syndrome like Shwachman-Diamond, weight gain can be difficult due to Pancreatic Insufficiency, and parents are usually instructed to “beef-up” their child’s diet. It can be very tricky to make sure that your child is getting quality calories over just extra quantity of calories. A nutritionist or dietician at your local children’s hospital can be a very valuable resource. If one is not available, speak to your child’s pediatrician or specialist. In the mean time, here are some things that you could possibly do.
Whole grains. Make sure that you use a lot of whole grains in your child’s diet. Try to avoid foods that say “enriched wheat.” When the grain has been enriched, it means that the wholesome fiber and other essential vitamins and minerals have been stripped away in the processing phase and a few have been added back in. If the product says “whole grain” then the entire grain is still in the product and, more importantly, so are the nutrients. In addition, the body tends to treat enriched wheat products like sugar when it is digested. With whole grains, however, it takes the body longer to process them and, as a result, the body will absorb more of the nutrients.
Go Organic. Some studies have shown that organic products are higher in nutritional value than their non-organic counterparts. Organic milk has been shown to have more of the brain boosting Omega 3 fatty acid than non-organic milk. Another benefit is that they are grown without pesticides, many of which are known to be carcinogenic. There are some downfalls to going organic. Organic food can be more susceptible to pest damage. Another is the cost. Organic is more expensive. Luckily, some products, like Horizon, offer coupons from their website, www.horizonorgnaic.com. In addition, some stores like Target, Kroger, and Publix are offering their own brand of cheaper organics that make it much more affordable.
Use a calorie-boosting product. You must talk to your doctor before trying this, but some products like Duocal and instant breakfast mix can be safely added to your child’s milk to give a fat and calorie boost. You can find instant breakfast mix at almost any grocery story. Do not buy the no sugar added kind because these usually have some sort of artificial sweetener, which is not good for growing bodies. Duocal can be ordered through SHS North America or your local pharmacy.
Sneak veggies and fruit in. You can sneak healthy vegetables and fruits into snack foods like brownies and cookies. All you have to do is cook or steam the fruits and veggies, blend them in a food processor or mixer, and then add them to snack foods like brownies or cookies. You can also use the puréed fruit in pancakes and waffles to give them a calorie and taste boost. There are some cookbooks such as Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious or Missy Chase Lapine’s The Sneaky Chef that can give you more recipe ideas. There are also some good sneaky recipes on parenting.com.
Miscellaneous ideas. Unless your child is having problems with diabetes, milk allergies, or high cholesterol, try to give your child whole milk and other dairy products made with whole milk. Use foods like peanut butter or sun butter (A peanut butter substitute made with sunflower seeds. It is very notorious.) for a dipping sauce for fruits and vegetables during snack time. Add a little bit of olive oil into foods like milkshakes and pasta dishes or use it as a dip with some herbs for bread. Olive oil is high in the good fats and is quite tasty.
Try to avoid drinks like colas and other foods that contain empty calories. They will do nothing but make your child fill full and they will not want to eat the foods that will help them absorb the calories and nutritional components that they really need, but a little indulgence every now and then will not hurt.
If you are really concerned that your child is not gaining enough weight, insist that your doctor set up an appointment to speak to a nutritionist ASAP. Together you can come up with a meal plan built just for your child and hopefully be on the right path to wellness.