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Tips for Feeding Your Young Child

Amy Long Carrera, MS, RD, CNSC, CWCMS
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Shield HealthCare
09/01/15  9:50 AM PST

Healthy nutrition supports optimal growth and development of your child. Starting healthy habits early reduces the risk of immediate problems, like anemia and dental cavities. It also helps decrease the likelihood of  chronic diseases, like diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Help your child develop lifelong positive eating behaviors in each phase of life.

 

4-6 months

At this age, start to offer solid foods that are complementary to breastmilk.

  • Okay to start 100% fruit juice.
    • Wait to start juice after 6 months. It’s not as nutritious as breastmilk, formula or fruits and veggies.
  • Introduce one food/flavor at a time.
    • Wait 3 to 5 days before introducing another food and watch for signs of allergic reaction to the new food.
  • Introduce a variety of foods.
    • It may take 10 or 20 times before your child will try a new food!
  • Choose nutrient-rich foods
    • Infant cereals
    • Pureed meats
    • Pureed beans and legumes
    • Soft fruits and cooked vegetables
    • Variety of grains, including wheat and oats
  • Limit rice, which contains small amounts of arsenic due to the way it is grown.
  • Avoid foods with added sugar and salt.
    • Early exposure to these foods can trigger cravings at a later age.
    • Processed foods can cause high blood pressure at a later age.
  • Avoid foods with choking risk:
    • Popcorn
    • Peanuts
    • Raisins
    • Whole grapes
    • Hotdog pieces
    • Hard, raw fruits and veggies like apples
    • Foods that are hard to chew
    • Sticky foods like peanut butter that stick to the roof of the mouth

 

Toddlers and Preschoolers

At this stage, kids start to realize the social aspect of eating and develop lifelong eating habits.

  • They like to help.
  • They like consistency.
    • Serve meals and snacks at the same time each day, preferably in the same spot.
  • They like to know what they’re eating.
    • Offer foods separately and not mixed together. For example, serve small slices of meat, cheese and bread rather than a sandwich.
  • They like things that are their size.
    • Offer bite-sized food with small plates and utensils that fit in their tiny hands.
    • Serve snacks at kid-sized tables and chairs.
  • They like to follow your lead.
    • Show off your healthy eating habits and table manners in front of your toddler or preschooler.

 

School-Age Children

Establishing lifelong healthy eating and physical activity habits will reduce risk of chronic disease later in life.

  • They like control.
    • School-age kids want more control over what they eat. Offer healthy choices and let them decide which one to take.
  • They may only want their favorites.
    • Continue to offer new foods along with their favorite foods. It still may take several attempts before they will try new things.
  • They need nutritious foods.
    • Limit foods with poor nutrition, like packaged foods, sugar-sweetened beverages and desserts. These can lead to bad habits and cavities and will make them less hungry for more nutritious foods.
    • Make sure they eat breakfast every morning before school.
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