Healthy Diets Start Young

If you want your child to grow up with optimum health and be eating a healthy diet as an adult, you must start early – even before he is born. Children are amazing to watch – they are tiny mirrors of their parents in many regards and often food is reflected through your children. If you are a healthy eater and your household contains healthy food items and mealtimes, it is likely your child will grow up in that environment and mimic it in his own home. On the contrary, if you feed your child fruits and vegetables while gorging on fast food yourself, you can count on him doing as you do – not as you say.

The Healthy Home

Rather than focusing on your child’s diet, focus on the diet of the home. In an ideal situation, your baby will make the transition to baby foods and then straight onto the foods you prepare for your family. If these are French fries and chicken nuggets, you’ll struggle substantially to meet the healthy diet goals you’d like to reach. Correct failings in your own diet first and your child will naturally benefit.

Infancy

During infancy, your child has limited options as to what foods to eat. Breast milk from a mother eating a healthy, balanced diet is best, but if that is not the right choice for a baby, a milk-based formula contains all necessary nutrients and supplements a baby needs for optimum growth. Other options such as soy-based formula and elemental formula might be the right option for children raised as vegetarians or with digestive and allergy troubles.

Solids

When your baby moves to solids, you have the first opportunity to truly affect his tastes and food choices later in life. Introduce solids slowly and then, as they are introduced, feed your baby a variety of foods from all food groups. As he is able to handle textures, move quickly to the table-food variety of fruits, vegetables and starches. Lentils and legumes are easily mashed and eventually make terrific finger foods.

Be sure your child is getting the right amount of formula up to his first birthday or beyond if warranted and full-fat milk is suitable for the dairy in his diet following formula. By one your child should be drinking plenty of milk, eating protein foods, consuming other sources of calcium, eating at least two or three servings of fruits and vegetables a day and eating plenty of whole grain carbohydrates. As your child will be eating table food at this point, it means you also should be eating this balanced diet on a daily basis.

Snacks and Sweets

The most trouble to a healthy diet comes not at mealtime, but at snack time. You’d have a hard time putting cookies beside broccoli on the dinner plate, but somehow it’s easy to hand a child a cookie for a snack. The cookie can reduce his appetite for healthy foods at mealtime and, with the limited appetites of young children, can reduce your opportunity for healthier options.

Children need snacks throughout the day, but they should be the same quality of food that you’d put on their plate at mealtime. Whole grain crackers, cookies made with oatmeal and raisins, and fruit or vegetable slices are all good choices – they will help you reach the nutritional requirements for your child each day instead of working against you.

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