Creating Healthy Food Habits for Children
Ages 6 Months to 2 Years
Today families have to make complex feeding decisions. This information is designed to alert you to the areas that need special thought as you create your own family food habits. The first 2 years of life lay the foundation for a lifetime of individual and family eating habits. Follow your health care provider’s advice about introducing solids. Think about how you want to handle the issues that will affect your child’s health as he/she moves from infancy to toddler and childhood.
It takes 5 to 10 tries before a child becomes familiar with a new food.
- Don’t assume your child does not like a food because he/she refused it once. Offer it again until it becomes familiar
- Serve lots of different colored foods and offer five servings of fruits and vegetables every day
- A serving size is 1-3 tablespoons for each year of life up to age 2
- Let your child see you eating you fruits and vegetables every day
Juice, Juice, Juice
Most children don’t need juice for good nutrition. Fruit (pureed, cut-up, whole or cooked) carries more fiber, is more filling and makes a better desert or snack than juice.
- When juice is served, use a cup and not the bottle. Six ounces of 100% fruit juice (orange, pineapple, grapefruit, apple juice with vitamin C) is enough juice for most children to drink in a day
- To quench thirst offer water or water flavored with a small amount of lemon or other fruit juice
- Think of soda or the sweetened drinks as liquid candy
The best snacks are simple ones. Some snacks are highly profitable for companies but contain little nutrition. The clever packaging, high salt and/or high sugar content can cause children to overeat.
- Include cut up fruit, vegetable slices, and simple crackers and plain cookies (graham crackers and animal crackers)
- Protect your child from highly advertised snacks (fruit roll-ups, cereal bars, yogurt covered candies, sugar, snack cakes, fruit drinks and soda)
The Rule Of One
Parents often wonder how often to serve dessert or “junk food." Here is a suggestion; Try the rule of one. Allow one serving a day of food that is fun but not very nitritious such as; cake, cookies, cereal bars, ice cream, french fries, potato chips, soda, candy. That's one per day - not per meal !
The child served three balanced meals and wholesome snacks (aim for including five fruits and vegetables in those meals) will learn there is room for everything in moderation.
It is never too early to think about TV habits. Kids who watch a lot of TV are at risk of weight gain, inactivity, and feeling isolated and not doing as well in school.
- Keep TV out of the bedroom
- Don’t snack while watching TV
- Avoid eating meals in front of the TV, since it robs children of hearing vocabulary-building conversation
- Limit TV to 2 hours or less per day. Children under 2 should not watch any TV
Be Active Together
- Include playing with push and pull toys, simple cars or playing clapping games, tossing bean bags, rolling a ball
- Get in the habit of a daily walk with your child in a back pack or stroller. When your child is older he/she will need 60 minutes of active play to be at his/her strongest
- Adults need thirty minutes of activity daily to keep healthy
Don’t underestimate the power of the family meal.
- Children who eat family meals do better in school, have a better diet, and when older are less likely to engage in high risk behavior
- At age 15 to 18 months a three meal per day schedule with appropriate snacks should be in place.
- Serve most meals in one location (for example the kitchen table)