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When feeding infants and children, parents often throw dietary advice out of the window. It's hard enough getting children to eat, let alone worrying about healthy eating for children. Meal times needn't be an endless source of frustration and anxiety. It's important to know a few facts.
First, fat children often become fat adults. And fat adults are more likely to suffer high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Second, infants and children are not miniature adults. You can't just feed children smaller replicas of your meals. They have different needs. Third, it's never too early to start to think about healthy eating and to get your children eating the right things. Habits formed early will stick.
Infants under two years need to take 50% of their energy as fat. Breast milk is ideal food for this for the first 6 months. By 6 months infants should slowly be introduced to solids, including things like baby cereals, fruits, and vegetables.
Avoid bulky high-fibre foods. They're great for adults but they can fill up infant's smaller stomachs whilst not providing enough nutrition. Don't give cow's milk to children in their first year.
Don't try to impose strict dietary rules on young children but also don't let yourself get manipulated. A lot of parents become anxious if their child doesn't seem to be eating enough and toddlers are quick to grasp this and use it as a weapon in the battle for independence.
Children are hard-wired to get enough nutrition. Their bodies and impulses are such that they self-regulate their nutritional needs. If your child realises that by throwing a tantrum they will get given milk and cookies then they will exploit that. If, however, they know that kicking and screaming has no effect, they will make sure they eat enough at mealtimes.
Getting your child into a good routine doesn't mean getting them into your routine. Children have smaller stomachs than adults and often need snacks during the day. Try providing them with healthy snacks like sugar snap peas, raw carrots or breadsticks – snacks don't have to be crisps and biscuits.
As a child grows up make sure they get a balance of different foods and try to avoid those with high saturated fat. Let them get involved with choosing and preparing food and be aware that texture is often the reason for rejecting food – keep the blender handy!
Food fads, awkwardness and manipulative behaviour are far more common than malnutrition in this country. Don't get pushed around by your child – as soon as they realise that leaving food on their plate is no skin off your nose and leaves them hungry, they'll begin to pay more attention to meal times.
10710 Revised November 2012comments powered by Disqus