In addition to contributing to the current childhood obesity epidemic, kids who don't have healthy diets as young children are likely to continue to make unhealthy choices as teens and adults.
These 'Child Nutrition By The Book' guidelines can help you to make healthy choices when planning your family's diet.
Infant NutritionAlthough feeding a baby seems easy at first, since they are usually limited to just breast milk or formula, as the choices of baby food expand, such as cereal, vegetables, fruits, meats, finger foods, and table foods, parents often get confused.
- The AAP advises that 'breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child.'
- Infants who aren't breastfeeding should be fed an iron fortified infant formula until they are 12 months old, at which time if they are not still breastfeeding, they can usually switch to whole cow's milk.
- Infants do not usually need supplements with water or juice before they are six months old.
- You usually don't need to introduce solid foods before a baby is six months old.
MilkMilk is an important part of a healthy diet for most kids. In fact, depending on their age, most kids should drink about 2 to 4 cups of milk each day. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children who are:
- 1-3 years old drink about 2 cups of milk (or other dairy products)
- 4-8 years old drink about 3 cups of milk (or other dairy products)
- 9-18 years old drink about 4 cups of milk (or other dairy products)
- Switch your kids to low fat milk once they turn two years old.
- Consider an alternative to cow's milk if your child has a milk allergy, such as soy milk or rice milk, although since they are low fat, they are not recommended for toddlers under age two years of age.
- Chocolate milk adds a lot of sugar and calories to 'white' milk, unless you offer sugar free chocolate milk.
- While drinking milk is usually good for you, drinking too much milk can lead to your child becoming constipated, overweight, or developing iron deficiency anemia.
JuiceWhile many kids don't drink enough milk, most drink way too much juice. And according to the AAP, drinking too much juice can contribute to obesity, the development of cavities (dental caries), diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal problems, such as excessive gas, bloating and abdominal pain.
- when you give your child juice, it should be pasteurized 100% fruit juice and not fruit drinks.
- infants under 6 months of age should not be given juice, although many Pediatricians do recommend small amounts of juice for children that are constipated
- younger children aged 1 to 6 years should have only 4-6 ounces of juice a day.
- older children should be limited to 8-12 ounces of juice a day
- instead of juice, children should be encouraged to eat whole fruits