We, as parents, want our children to have it all. We want health and happiness for them. While there are some things that we cannot control, we can make the choice early in our children’s lives to provide a variety of food options that will provide the building blocks to build a healthy mind and body.
Infants from birth to 6 months receive all of their nutrients either from breast milk or formula. There is typically no need to supplement, unless it is recommended by your child’s doctor or a dietician. As your child grows and is ready for solid foods, you may have questions: What comes first? How do I do this? How do I know my child is eating enough, but not too much? How much is too much?
Here are important ideas to remember about the food you eat and serve:
- Balance: Be sure that your child gets enough, but not too much, of each type of food.
- Variety: Offer a wide selection of foods within each food group.
- Moderation: Limit the intake of foods high in added sugars, salt, saturated and trans fats, and cholesterol.
- Adequacy: Ensure the foods provide enough energy and nutrients to meet your child’s dietary needs.
- Education: Food labels tell the story about the food you eat. Nutrition information on the labels is written for one serving, but more than one serving may be in the container. You can find nutrient, fat, sodium, and carbohydrate content on the label, along with vitamins and minerals.
- Creativity: Arrange food in shapes on the plate or use a skewer. Provide dipping sauce for vegetables or fruit. Garlic or parmesan cheese can be sprinkled on top.
- Independence: Young children can serve themselves, with your supervision. An appropriately sized serving utensil can help with portion control.
- Patience: New foods can take time to catch on. Present them multiple times and your kids might start asking for them.
- Safety: Watch out for foods that may cause choking, including hot dogs, chips, nuts, seeds, popcorn, raisins, grapes, cherries, marshmallows, pretzels, peanut butter, and hard candy.
Proper nutrition is important for everyone. By starting early, positive habits can be established that can impact a child for life.
Originally written for the Illinois Early Intervention Clearinghouse Newsletter: Fall 2019.