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Dietitians Dish: Start children off with best nutrition possible

June 8, 2010 at 1:08 a.m.


By Loretta Cordes

It is important to give your child a good nutritious start in life. This will ensure that your child gets all the nutrients he or she needs to allow for proper growth and development.

There is a lot of confusion on when to introduce specific foods. This article will provide basic nutrition tips for the first two years of life.

According to the American Dietetic Association, babies will receive all the nutrition they need from breast milk or formula from birth to 6 months of age. Cow's milk should not be given until after the age of one.

Iron-fortified cereal such as rice can be introduced at the age of 4 to 6 months. At this time babies will still receive most of their calories and nutrients from formula or breast milk. Pureed vegetables and fruits can be introduced the ages of 6 to 8 months. Begin with offering vegetables first.

It is important to introduce single item foods, (not mixed vegetables) for 5 to 7 days and observe for side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea and unusual rashes. After all the different vegetables have been introduced then offer fruit. Introduce them one at a time as the vegetables were introduced. After all the different fruits are introduced, then pureed meats can be given.

At the ages of 7 to 10 months, finger foods, such as dry cereal and teething biscuits may be offered. Also, at this age children can start using a cup for water.

By the ages of 8 to 12 months, most infants are ready to eat soft table foods, which may include cooked egg yolks or chopped meats. Delay the introduction of egg whites, fish, peanuts and tree nuts to reduce the risk of developing food allergies.

Between the ages of 1 and 2, babies continue to develop eating skills. Since choking on firm, round foods is a risk, these foods should be cut in small -inch squares.

Remember that soda and fruit punch are never appropriate at these ages and that fruit juice should only be introduced when it can be offered in a cup at about 9 months of age. When juice is given, it is better to dilute it with water and use in small amounts.

With a few of these basic guidelines, you can enjoy adding new foods to your baby's diet, while feeling confident you are providing the best nutrition possible.

Remember, babies or children should not be put on a diet or be restricted of nutrient-rich foods. The main goal is to help your child regulate their intake based on their hunger and feelings of fullness.

Loretta Cordes is a registered and licensed dietitian with a Master's of Science Degree in Human Sciences and certified diabetes educator. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.

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