Food IntroductionHow to establish healthy, lifelong eating patterns in your children
By Dominique Ewing
The journey from developing fetus to self-feeding child is one during which life-long eating habits are created. With that said, it is essential to establish a healthy nutritional foundation at an early age. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding infants for, preferably, the first 6 months (no less than 4 months) before introducing complementary, solid foods. Once solid foods are introduced, it’s advised that breastfeeding be continued at least up to the child reaches 1 year of age. To clarify, although opinions vary concerning the importance of the order in which certain foods are introduced, there is absolutely no scientific evidence that any specific order is advantageous to the baby. For example, despite a commonly held belief that introducing fruits before vegetables causes the child to prefer sweet tastes, disliking vegetables thereafter—there is no scientific evidence that support this claim! In fact, babies are born with a natural preference for ‘sweet,’ which is not affected by the order in which they taste solid foods.
Traditionally, single-grain foods have been introduced first. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) advises that if a child was mostly breastfed—as opposed to formula fed—and then weaned, incorporating pureed meat and poultry may be beneficial to maintain their iron and zinc at optimal levels, because these minerals are more easily absorbed from meat, and essential for a 4-6 month old growing child. It is also important to note that each vegetable and meat product are much more nutrient-rich per serving than are fruits and cereals. When choosing a cereal, it is important to choose ‘baby cereal’ because it contains essential nutrients specific to the needs of a developing infant. Baby cereals can be found in two forms: premixed or dry—to which breast milk, formula, or water must be added. Dry cereals are richer in iron, and allow more control of the final texture.
New foods should be introduced 1 at a time, waiting 2-3 days before starting another to watch for allergic reactions. Rash, diarrhea, and vomiting are signs of an allergic reaction—if any occur, stop using the food immediately and consult with the child’s physician. Within a few months from beginning solid food consumption, a child’s diet should include variety: breast milk (or formula), meats, cereal, vegetables, and fruits. It is usually advised to avoid eggs and fish during a child’s first year to avoid allergic reactions. Many believe that introducing small amounts of fish and eggs at 4-6 months of age promotes resilience to food allergies, however, there is no evidence that that this approach to feeding has any effect. According to the ADA, most babies prefer starting off with softer, smoother textures and gradually moving towards thicker textures. Beware of some of these common choking hazards: popcorn; nuts; whole grapes; uncut and stringy meats; hotdog pieces; hard, raw fruits and vegetables (i.e. apples, green beans, carrots); chunks of meat or cheese; hard-to-chew foods; sticky foods (i.e. peanut butter stuck in the back of the mouth).
Just remember, a positive feeding relationship during infancy can have lifetime benefits, so help your child establish a healthy one!
1. 1. Hetherington, Marion M. et al. “Feeding Infants and Young Children: From Guidelines to Practice.” Appetite, 57. (2011): 791-795. Print.
2. “Introducing Solid Foods.” American Dietetics Association. Jan 12 2012. Web. Jan 26 2012.
3. “Switching to Solid Foods.” Starting Solid Foods. American Academy of Pediatrics, 2010. Web. Jan 26 2012.
Published 2012-02-06Share this articleSee all Kids and Young Adults articles >>