March is National Nutrition Month and a good reminder that a kids’ early eating experience can affect how they eat when they get older. It’s so important to start young and incorporate healthy eating habits into the home.
Foods to Introduce First
Starting at 6 months old, a baby can start to transition from breast milk and formula to other foods and drinks. The order of introducing foods is not that important.
By 7 or 8 months old, they can start to experiment with different food groups. They need a variety of vitamins and minerals to grow healthy and strong.
Eating can become a fun activity. Foods can be a visual rainbow for children, especially when they are laid out on the plate. A few examples include:
bananas, strawberries, pears, oranges, melons, or avocados
cooked spinach, carrots, peas, sweet potatoes, or beets
whole grain breads, crackers, or pastas
soft, small pieces of beef, lamb, chicken, fish, or turkey
yogurts or cheeses (pasteurized only)
Water can be introduced between 6 and 12 months old (4-6 oz/day). By 12 months old, fortified cow’s milk can be offered.
Foods to Avoid
There are certain foods and drinks to avoid giving a child. If they are under 12 months, avoid foods and drinks such as:
Honey – It could cause a serious type of food poisoning called botulism in children under 12 months.
Unpasteurized drinks or foods – These items may put your child at risk for E. coli, a harmful bacteria that can cause severe diarrhea. Common unpasteurized foods include raw milk, juice, yogurt, or cheeses.
Fortified cow’s milk – It may put your young child under 12 months old at risk for intestinal bleeding.
Fruit juice and other sugary drinks – The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children not drink 100% juice or juice drinks with added sweeteners before 12 months old.
Be Their Role Model
Once your child is 12 months old or older, they’ll be eating more of the foods that you eat. Eating a healthy diet sets a good example for your children.
It’s important for children and adults alike to limit foods that are high in sodium and added sugars.
Eating a healthy diet can help children get the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. For adults, a healthy diet can help protect against a number of serious and costly chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and obesity.
A healthy diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat or fat-free dairy. The USDA’s ChooseMyPlate can help you choose the healthy foods and drinks that work for your family.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)