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Healthy Food choices for Babies and Toddlers

Breast milk has all the appropriate vitamins and minerals for babies. Best choice of milk for children after age 1 is “whole milk.” It is recommended to switch to low-fat milk after age 2 or 3.

Things to watch out for:

• Iron is important. Make sure your child gets enough iron

• Calcium is important. Toddlers between 1 and 3 need 500 milligrams of calcium each day.

• Dietary fiber is necessary after age 3. Adequate dietary fiber can prevent diseases later on.

• Do not feed your baby eggs, citrus fruits and juices, cow’s milk or honey until after the first birthday

• Do not feed your child seafood, peanuts or tree nuts before age 2 or 3.

Healthy Food Choices for children 2 to 5 years of age include:

• 4 – 5 or more servings of breads, cereals, rice, and pasta

• 2 or more servings of vegetables

• 2 or more servings of fruits

• 3 – 4 servings of dairy products

• 2 or 3 servings of meat, fish, poultry and legumes

Fat: When a child is 2 or 3 years old you can start reducing dietary fat. Ways to reduce fat include:

• Switching from whole milk to low-fat or nonfat milk

• Serving more fish and poultry and less red meat

• Remove skin from poultry and trim fat from meats

• Reduce butter and margarine use

• Use low-fat cooking methods such as baking, broiling, grilling, poaching and steaming

• Serve fiber-rich food like whole-grain bread, cereals, dried peas and beans, fruits and vegetables.

Research has found dietary fiber may play a role in reducing chances of heart disease and cancer later in life. Following the suggestions on fruit and vegetable servings each day and serving only whole-grain breads and cereals will put you well on the way toward helping your children develop good eating habits throughout his or her life.

Adequate calcium intake can mean stronger, healthier bones and teeth for your children later. Children ages 1 to 3 require 500 milligrams of calcium each day. Children from age 4 to 8 require 800 milligrams of calcium each day. After age 8, the requirements are 1,300 milligrams per day. To meet these requirements offer your children choices that include:

• Low-fat or nonfat milk

• Low-fat or nonfat yogurt

• Low-fat cheese

• Tofu

• Salmon (with bones)

• Calcium-Fortified fruit juices

• Ice cream on occasion

Dietary Supplements

If you feed your child a variety of healthy foods he or she probably will not need dietary supplements. If your child eats very little meat, does not like iron-fortified cereals, and iron-rich vegetables, he or she may need additional supplements of iron and zinc. Consider the following food choices to boost your child’s intake of iron without supplements:

• Liver

• Beef

• Dried beans

• Dried fruit

• Baked potatoes

• Oatmeal

• Iron-fortified cereals

Source: American Medical Association

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