How to Meet the Dietary Needs of Babies - Health, Palate, and Lifestyle

 

More and more studies are proving that food has a large impact on our overall health and may even determine which diseases and ailments we will get later in life. The more we are aware of the importance of our food choices the earlier we can teach and protect our children. Of course there is always a balance to strike between what's good for our body and what's good for our taste buds and lifestyle. Here is a description of the most important nutrients for your child's development and which foods meet their needs.

Protein
Babies require more protein than adults because of their rapid growth. A one year old child needs about 15 grams or two cups of protein per day, such as milk, cheese, beans, tofu, fish, poultry and lean meats. Combination foods such as grains (bread, pasta, rice) with beans, lentils, avocados, cheeses or tofu will provide the balance needed for vegetarian babies.

Fiber
Most of your baby's fiber needs will be met with fruits and vegetables and cereal. Be careful as a diet too high in fiber and whole grains can fill up a child before their nutritional needs have been met and interfere with absorption of minerals such as zinc, iron and calcium. Too much fiber may also cause diarrhea or an upset stomach to your baby.

Zinc
Zinc is important for healthy immune systems and growth. Offer your child plenty of food rich in zinc such as wheat germ, lean meats, milk, lentils, beans, peas, corn and soybeans. Zinc, like iron may be a problem for vegetarian babies because of poor absorption.

Antioxidants
These are important early on as they prevent damage to developing DNA. The average American family eats only 50% of what is recommended. Vegetables and fruits are the best source of antioxidants including: sweet potatoes, carrots, kiwi, broccoli, avocados, and blueberries.

Water
Babies get water from formula and breast milk early on. However once solids are introduced they may need more liquids to aid swallowing. Water is needed for hydration as children become more active.

The nutrients listed above are good for all ages. While they contribute to your child's development they also keep adults healthy and free from diseases. You are the expert when it comes to your family and child. If you have a concern, trust your instinct and find someone to help you with health and nutrition questions and problems - pediatricians, nutritionists, dieticians, and lactation consultants are the perfect resources. Typically steady growth is best proof that your child is getting the right amount of food.

Lisa Barnes is the founder of Petit Appetit, a culinary service devoted to the palates and health of infants and toddlers. She teaches in-home private cooking classes to parents, nannies, mothers' groups, and parenting resources throughout Northern California and is the author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook (published by Penguin Books, March 2005).

Her mission is for children to eat more healthfully, and parents to feel empowered to provide tasty and healthy food for their family. Good food should be about nutrition and taste, and bringing the family together.

 



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