With less preparation time and more highly-processed cheap foods coming at our families all the time, Alzein Pediatrics is happy to introduce our Nutrition with Alzein Pediatrics Program and our newest health care provider, Anna Velazquez, registered Dietitian and licensed Nutritionist.
“While proper nutrition has always been important to children’s health and development, it’s becoming more and more critical,” says Dr. Hassan Alzein. “More and more parents have asked us about meal planning, how nutrition can help their child overcome and prevent illness and how childhood obesity can be avoided. We are delighted that Ms. Anna has joined the Alzein Pediatrics team to help launch Nutrition with Alzein Pediatrics and assist our families understand the intense connection between what goes into their child’s bodies and what the health outcomes will be.”
Anna Velazquez grew up in a small town in Poland, Nowy Targ, and moved to Chicago at the age of 10. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Health Science from DePaul University in Chicago, and completed her Masters degree in Nutrition Science with Dietetic Supervised Practice at Dominican University in River Forest.
Anna discovered the potential of healthy eating while working on her degree at DePaul. “I realized that most of the chronic conditions can be prevented, reversed, or alleviated through nutrition intervention. The solution to our population’s declining health and increasing medical costs is imbedded in lifestyle changes. I was inspired to be part of the solution in helping people live longer and healthier lives.”
Her interest in kids began by helping to care for younger brothers and was strengthened by years of babysitting for Chicago families. “I thoroughly enjoy spending time with kids and watching them grow and develop,” Anna says. As a pediatric nutritionist, Anna has married her love of kids with the science of helping them achieve the best possible health outcomes through nutrition and physical activity.
“My mission is to help children and their parents understand the importance of nutrition in wellbeing and guide them towards a positive relationship with food. I encourage eating together to promote both family bonding and portion control. Allowing children to choose how much they eat helps them develop mindfulness around mealtimes. Making small changes, one at a time will help ensure long-lasting benefits.”
She stresses that there are no good or bad foods, only a balance of nutrients that our bodies need us to provide. “Everyone is different,” Anna says.
“What we eat directly influences how well our bodies cope with infections, how likely we are to break bones, or our chances of developing chronic conditions,” says Anna. She explains that vitamin C, vitamin A, and zinc play important roles in helping our wounds heal and vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium are essential for building strong bones. “When our diets include varied foods, our bodies can obtain all of these nutrients to sustain a state of equilibrium. But when we eat too much of one thing – like carbohydrates from processed and fast foods – we are replacing our intake of vital micronutrients that keep us healthy or help us heal faster with empty calories.”
Anna is very concerned about the ever-growing childhood obesity crisis. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) shows that in 2015-2016, the obesity rate in children aged 2–5 years was 13.9%, in ages 6–11 years the rate was 18.4% and in adolescents aged 12–19 years the rate was 20.6%.
“Obesity continues to be the biggest threat for our kids’ health. Many people don’t realize that weight and poor nutrition are the main risk factors for developing chronic conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. For kids especially, being overweight can affect their psychological health too.”
She does see positives for children’s health and nutrition. “Parents are becoming more interested in nutrition and health, becoming more conscientious with what and how they eat. For example, in 2003, about 11% of kids drank sugar-sweetened beverages. In 2016, that dropped to just a little over 3%. That’s great news.”
When your family meets with Anna in our Nutrition with Alzein Pediatrics, you’ll receive nutrition services for:
- Children experiencing under or overnutrition
- Questions about transitioning babies to solid food
- Ways to expand the diets of picky eaters
- Food allergies and food intolerances
- Metabolic abnormalities
- Vitamin deficiencies
You can also make an appointment with Anna, in-person or via telehealth, to discuss meal planning. “Meal planning begins with simple nutrition lessons about fundamentals and portion sizes. This is one of the most important resources I offer – guiding families to reliable recipes to use as steppingstones in making delicious and nutritious meals. Each family is different – the ingredients they prefer, their budget, the time they have to prepare and eat meals and even their nutritional goals are all different. I will help families with meal planning in a way that is right for them.
Anna looks forward to engaging parents and children with virtual workshops and cooking classes to help kids try new foods and understand the importance of nutrition.
Anna and her husband Rigo live in the Chicago area. They love to travel and practice strength training together. They also love to try Chicago’s medley of restaurants to explore the foods of our diverse cultures.
Anna’s favorite quick recipe to make at home? Pizza! “Making pizza from scratch is an opportunity to load up with veggies. Most of my pizza creations include a nonfat and low sodium tomato sauce as a base and 3-4 different sautéed or grilled vegetables. I top it with a sprinkle of low-moisture skim shredded mozzarella cheese.” Click here to find Anna’s favorite four-ingredient pizza dough recipe.
Please join us in welcoming Anna Velazquez to the Alzein Pediatrics family and celebrating our new Nutrition with Alzein Pediatrics Program.
Call our offices at 708-424-7600 or click here to make a telehealth or in-person appointment with Anna and discuss your child’s particular nutrition needs and how healthy eating will make a huge difference in your child!