One of the most common questions I’m asked from new parents as a pediatrician in Wake Forest, NC is this:
“What should my child be eating?”
Despite all of the numbers on how much damage obesity does and nationwide coverage on the importance of a well balanced diet, nearly 1 in 3 children is overweight or obese. It’s easy to get confused about how much your child should be eating. Whether you have a baby or a toddler, it’s important to foster good nutrition so they can have long healthy lives. Because I know it can be a daunting subject, here is a handy guide breaking down nutrition at every age.
At this stage, it’s almost all about the milk. Whether you’re using breast milk, formula, or a combination of the two, it provides almost all of the nutrients an infant needs for the first year of it’s life.
Beyond milk, at about six months most babies will be ready to start solid foods like iron-fortified infant cereal and strained fruits, vegetables, and pureed meats. After six months breast milk alone may not provide enough iron and zinc. That’s why fortified cereals and meats can help breastfed babies in particular. It’s important to note that you should not go low-fat crazy. Although the AAP guidelines state that fat restriction is appropriate for some, in general, you don’t want to restrict fats under age two. A healthy amount of fat is actually important for brain and nerve development.
Toddlers and PreSchoolers
Just as your toddler can be unpredictable, so can their eating habits. Some days it may seem like they want to eat regularly all day and some days they don’t want to eat at all. This is completely normal. Though just because your toddlers eat in spurts, doesn’t mean their diet shouldn’t be steady. Here are some tips:
- Focus on Calcium
Calcium, or the body’s building block, is absolutely necessary to build strong bones and teeth. You kids may not care that milk does all that for them, but encouraging calcium is absolutely paramount to development. For lactose intolerant children, there are many other options available in calcium fortified soy milk, tofu, orange juice. There are also many waffles, cereals, and other snacks that offer calcium without making your child sick.
- Encourage Fiber
Fiber not only aids digestion and prevents constipation but it also prevents heart disease. Kids at this age are more likely to be more opinionated and say no to more fiber rich food, but it is incredibly important. Of course, they would rather eat protein and starch rich food like chicken nuggets and mac and cheese, but introducing stuff like whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables can set your kids on the path to healthy lives.
For some more helpful tips on nutrition for your infant or toddler, be sure to check out information on making healthy food choices and all of Healthy Children’s information on nutrition. If you want to know more about what you can do for your child from a Pediatrician in the Wake Forest NC area, give us a call at 919-435-1099 and schedule an appointment. I’d love to talk more about what Rainbow Kids Pediatrics can do to promote lifelong health with your little ones.