Eating Healthy with JIA

Eating a healthy diet

Eating healthy is important in the management of JIA. Keep in mind, though, that eating a nutritious diet is important whether or not a child has JIA.  

A healthy diet helps in growth and development. A healthy diet also has the right amount of nutrients to keep children healthy and from having health problems. A poor diet may lead to health problems such as anaemia (decreased oxygen going to body tissues), eating disorders, or being overweight. A poor diet may cause other health problems later in life such as obesity, heart disease, or diabetes. A nutritious diet and regular physical activity can lower a child's risk of having some of these health problems.  

The four food groups

A healthy diet should include different kinds of foods from all the food groups. Meals should have enough of the following to help a child's mind and body grow:

  • protein such as meat, beans, and nuts
  • carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, and cereal
  • fruits and vegetables
  • dairy products such as milk and cheese

The foods a child eats should be high in vitamins and minerals. Her diet should also be low in fat and sugar. Eating foods that are low in fat and sugar can help her stay at a healthy weight, and decrease the risk of health problems.

Canada's Food Guide can help you make the right decisions for a healthy diet. Why don't you check it out to see if you are making healthy choices? See the website for Canada's Food Guide.

You can even create your own personal food guide.

Foods to limit

A diet high in sweets, highly processed foods, fried foods, and fast foods can result in poor nutrition. It is important to limit fast food and convenience foods. Some examples of fast foods and convenience foods are hamburgers, french fries, pizza, potato chips, candy, and soda. These foods are high in fat and sugar. Try to replace these high fat, high sugar foods with healthy foods. For example, if you and your child drink a lot of soda pop, try drinking milk or water instead.

Eating regular meals

Breakfast is a very important meal. It provides many essential nutrients and energy to start the day. A nutritious breakfast can also prevent mid-morning hunger leading to snacking on high energy 'junk' foods rather than more nutritious foods. It is important to eat three meals a day with healthy snacks in between.

What about fad diets?

Some children and teenagers may want to follow a new fad diet if they see their friends or famous people following it. These diets may not have all the nutrients a child needs to grow and stay healthy. Dieting too often may also lead to eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa is refusal (not wanting) to eat. Bulimia nervosa is binge eating followed by throwing up, using laxative medicine, fasting (not eating at all), or heavy exercise. Talk with the doctor if you are worried about your child's eating habits.  

Other tips for healthy eating

Here are some more tips for healthy eating:

  • Eat a variety of foods.
  • Balance the food with physical activity.
  • Choose a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables, and fruits
  • Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
  • Choose a diet moderate in sugars and salt.
  • Choose a diet that provides enough calcium and iron to meet a child's growing body's requirements.
  • Eat regular meals and healthy snacks even if you are busy.
  • If the ingredient list is really long on the package, and contains things that don't sound like food, you may want to stay away from them. 

It is much easier to follow these tips if everyone in the household follows these guidelines. Eating meals together with your family is another way to make sure you all eat healthy.

Neely Lerman MSW, RSW

Adam M. Huber, MSc, MD, FRCPC

Miriam Kaufman, BSN, MD, FRCPC

Lynn Spiegel, MD, FRPCP

Jennifer Stinson, RN, PhD, CPNP

Lori B. Tucker, MD