Healthy Eating Habits for Your Child

The Trying Game

When introducing a new food, it helps to offer a small amount of it with an old favorite. Also, serve a small portion of it at the beginning of the meal when your child is hungrier. Talk about the food's color, shape, smell and texture without telling your child that it tastes good. Your child will decide that, and she can always ask you for a second serving.

Serve your child's meal on a large plate to make the portions look smaller. Your child may be more interested in what's on your plate than on her own. Place some of her food on your plate to tempt her.

As a general rule, we love the sight of a plump baby. But we are also beginning to be aware of the increasing problems of obesity and type 2 diabetes in our children. We need to balance these concerns. Infancy through age five is not a time to diet.

Smaller tummies need to be filled more often, and most children eat five to six times a day. Plan for healthy snacks in addition to three main meals. Snacks are important, because small children need to eat about every three hours. Set up a snack schedule, rather than letting your child graze, and avoid snacks an hour to an hour and a half before meals. Make up individual-serving containers or baggies, if possible. Serve milk or juice with a meal or snack, and offer your child water in between if she's thirsty.

The Skinny on Fats

Infants and young children need a certain amount of fat for growth and brain development. For this reason, whole milk or fortified soy milk should be served during the second year of life. After the second year you should offer 2% milk or less.

It is recommended that fat make up 30 to 35 percent of your child's diet. Mono- and polyunsaturated fats, including olive, corn and nut oils, are good ones since they do not increase blood cholesterol. Saturated fats found in meats and dairy products can raise ldl cholesterol and should be less than 10 percent of your child's diet.

You should limit cholesterol to 300 milligrams per day. Avoid products with partially hydrogenated ingredients since they may raise blood cholesterol levels. Be aware, too, of products that make the claim "reduced fat," because they can add extra calories. Choose lean cuts of meat (flank or round) and trim off visible fat when cooking.

Sure to Grow

Talk with your health care professional specifically about the percentiles for your child's height and weight. Is your child in proportion and is she growing consistently? Is there a greater than 25 percentile difference between her height and weight? For example, a toddler's eating patterns may need some rethinking if she is in the 95th percentile for weight but is only in the 50th percentile for height. This extra weight may be a result of poor eating habits such as frequent fast food intake, soft drinks, tea or too much juice.

It is normal for growth to slow after the first year to a rate of less than one-tenth the infant rate you've gotten accustomed to. But as a rule of thumb: From years two through puberty, your child will gain on average four and a half to six and a half pounds per year and will grow two and a half to three and a half inches each year.

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