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

More and more research is proving that diet has a huge impact on our overall health and may determine what illnesses and diseases we get later in life. The sooner we are aware of the importance of our food choices the sooner we can educate and protect our children. Of course there is always a balance to be struck between what is good for our body and what is good for our taste and lifestyle. Here is a breakdown of the most important nutrients for your child’s development and which foods meet their needs.

Iron

Children are born with their own source of iron, but after six months it will be depleted. Iron is better absorbed if it is from meat, but a vegetarian child can increase iron intake by eating foods rich in vitamin C (citrus fruits, fruits, spinach, tomatoes). Separation of milk from food also promotes absorption. Iron-rich foods include vegetables, whole grains, molasses, whole grains, refined grains, beans, and green vegetables.

Calcium

Breast milk or formula initially supplies all of your baby’s calcium needs. Calcium helps teeth and bones and increases overall strength. Good sources include: cow’s milk, fortified soy milk and orange juice, cheese, molasses, dark green vegetables, beans, lentils and tofu.

Protein

Babies need more protein than adults because of their rapid growth. A one-year-old child needs about 15 grams or two cups of protein a day, such as milk, cheese, beans, tofu, fish, chicken and lean meats. Mixed foods such as whole grains (bread, pasta, rice) with beans, lentils, avocado, cheese or tofu will provide the balance needed for vegetarian babies.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is usually found in animal products, such as meat and poultry. Other non-meat sources include dairy products and eggs, as well as fortified foods such as soy milk and corn.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is produced by the action of sunlight on the skin. Most children in warm climates get enough vitamin D (20-30 minutes a day, 2-3 times a week). Food sources of vitamin D include dairy products, eggs and fortified foods. Breast milk or formula will provide vitamin D in the early stages. Some doctors recommend vitamin D supplements.

Hair

Most of your child’s fiber needs will be met by fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Be careful because a diet too high in fiber and whole grains can satiate a child before their nutritional needs are met and interfere with the absorption of minerals such as zinc, iron and calcium. Too much fiber can also cause your baby to have diarrhea or colic.

Chingo

Zinc is important for immune systems and healthy growth. Give your child plenty of zinc-rich foods such as whole grains, lean meats, milk, nuts, beans, lentils, corn, and soy. Zinc, like iron, can be a problem for vegetarian babies, as the intake is low.

Oil

Babies get 40-50% of their calories from fat, breast milk or formula. After the first 12 months, your baby will get fat from cow’s milk. After two years, the Pediatric Panel of the National Cholesterol Education Program recommends reducing fat calories to 30% or less of the total diet. Now is the time to switch from milk and dairy products to low-fat versions. Healthy sources of fat include nuts, canola oil, avocados, milk, cheese and yogurt.

Antioxidants

These are important in the beginning because they prevent DNA damage from developing. The average American family eats only 50% of the recommended amount. Vegetables and fruits are the best source of antioxidants, including: sweet potatoes, carrots, kiwi, broccoli, avocado, and blueberries.

water

Babies get water from formula and breast milk from early on. However, when solids are introduced, more fluids may be needed to aid swallowing. As children become more active, water is needed for hydration.

The foods listed above are good for all ages. While they contribute to your child’s development, they also keep adults healthy and disease-free. You are the expert when it comes to your family and child. If you have a concern, trust your instincts and find someone to help you with your health and nutrition questions and concerns—pediatricians, dietitians, nutritionists, and lactation consultants are perfect resources. Regular growth is usually the best evidence that your child is getting the right amount of food.

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