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What are Some Important Considerations for Early Childhood Nutrition?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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Research shows that healthy eating habits in young children can translate to healthy eating patterns as adults. Focus on healthy early childhood nutrition is an excellent way to promote good lifelong dietary habits.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the best early childhood nutrition for infants is breastmilk. It has been shown to promote brain growth, maternal/child bonding, and also cuts down on illnesses in the first few years of life.

Some children or moms may not be able to breastfeed. Moms may not produce enough milk, or children with health problems may have difficulties with feeding that cannot be corrected. When a child can’t get breastmilk due to health issues, pumping and feeding the child with breastmilk is a great alternative.

When the mom has an inadequate supply of breastmilk, offering nursing once a day will still contribute to good early child nutrition, even if one has to supplement an infant’s diet with formula. Breastfeeding experts now believe that babies benefit most when they are allowed to nurse for one year. In the second half of the first year, one can also introduce solids.

Most pediatricians recommend introducing solids like simple rice cereal into the child's diet when a child at five or six months of age. First solids should be very simple, as babies’ stomachs do not digest complex foods well.

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Once solids are introduced, most babies will eat anything offered, and this is a good time to start offering foods with high vegetable content, as a way of increasing good early childhood nutrition. While a two year old might resist eating spinach, most infants won’t. Babies don’t need a lot of sweet fruits in their diet at this point. When one can offer vegetables, it can really affect taste and sensitivities later in.

It is acceptable in months six to twelve to offer some sweeter alternatives. Bananas, blueberries and applesauce are all be favorites. Foods like yams and winter squash are all high in vitamin A, making them healthy choices. Summer squash and spinach are, of course, classics.

Once a child is eating primarily solid foods, good early childhood nutrition in the US is based on the food pyramid. These include a recommended five servings of vegetables, six servings of grain, and two servings of dairy daily.

When children are lactose intolerant, consider yogurt with active cultures, since it is easier to digest. Many babies who have not been overly acclimatized to eating sweet things will readily eat unsweetened yogurt. If it is too sour, naturally sweeten it by adding mashed bananas or stirring in applesauce.

Sound early childhood nutrition should also include two servings of meat each day. Sweets of any kind are not encouraged, though it is certainly harmless to let your one or two year old have a piece of their own birthday cake. While avoiding saturated fats is of value in early childhood nutrition, some fats are indicated in healthy brain development. For this reason, it is considered perfectly acceptable to offer children whole milk products. Some experts disagree on when whole milk should be switched to low-fat milk. If a child seems to be on a healthy growth rate, some experts recommend not changing to low-fat milk until a child is five.

A great deal of concern in early childhood nutrition is the way children may develop allergies to food. Peanut allergies seem to be one of the greatest concerns. Some experts now recommend not adding peanut butter to children’s diets until they are at least two years old.

Children eat small portions, and one can measure servings by considering the size of the child fist. Any serving larger than a child’s fist is too large, and may acclimate your child to eating too much. Try for small portions, and snacks throughout the day, since children tend to need to eat every two to three hours because of their much faster metabolisms.

How you feed your child can be as important in early childhood nutrition as what you feed your child. Experts in early childhood nutrition warn parents not to get angry or attempt to force-feed a child who is not interested in eating. Some children are natural grazers, and offering them healthy snacks throughout the day may be easier for them than attempting to sit down to meals.

Varying color, textures and tastes in foods can also help turn picky eaters into happy eaters. By maintaining a positive attitude during the feeding process, and when children make food messes, you can help your young child develop a healthy emotional attitude toward the process of eating that will serve him or her throughout life.

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SlickeNumber
Post 1

I was a terribly picky eater as a child, which I'm happy to say has completely changed and now I'll try almost anything. I wonder if that had to do with keeping more of an open mind or of my taste buds changing?

I'm surprised that two servings of meat are recommended each day. Or maybe they just meant two servings of protein?

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