‘Kids Eat Right’ month promotes healthy choices

Becky Gautreaux
--Submitted photo

By BECKY B. GAUTREAUX, RD, LDN LSU AgCenter Area Nutrition Agent St. Mary Parish

August is “Kids Eat Right Month.” Kids should be taught to eat healthy and wholesome foods as early as possible. They observe your behaviors towards food and then mimic them so; this is the perfect time to eat healthy yourself.
Remember, these are recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. If you have concerns or questions, consult with your pediatrician before adopting the following recommendations.
—Breast milk (preferred) and/or iron-fortified formula are the only foods infants (birth to 4 to 6 months) should be fed. After 4 to 6 months breast milk or formula should be the major source or nutrition.
Wash hands before preparing formula and feedings. Hold the baby upright when feeding. Propping a bottle can lead to ear infections.
Do not microwave breast milk or formula. Microwaving causes nutrient breakdown and uneven heating with hot spots that can burn an infant’s mouth.
Early signs of hunger are sucking on hand or smacking lips. Crying is a late sign of hunger. Feed the infant on their cues and not by a clock.
If feeding with formula, prepare it with filtered, no added fluoride water. Diluting formula is dangerous and is not recommended. Read the label of the formula for proper requirements and instructions.
Young infants cannot digest cow’s milk as completely or easily. Cow’s milk will be introduced after an infant turns 1-year-old.
—Pureed baby foods should be introduced between 4 to 6 months depending on the baby’s ability to sit up and swallow. These foods should be single ingredient vegetables or fruits. Wait a month or two before mixing or giving fruit “desserts.”
Introduce one food every three days due to possible food allergies (e.g., diarrhea, rash, vomiting). Portion sizes are determined by the infant’s appetite and not the packaging. Finishing opened jars can encourage overeating and later lead to obesity. Pay attention to the infant and their cues of fullness.
Powered cereals are also introduced at this age. Begin with plain rice cereal, then barley and then try oat cereal. Wait until the baby is 6 months to feed high protein or mixed cereals. Mix the powdered cereal with formula, breast milk, or water and serve them with a spoon.
Be patient since this stage is time consuming. Babies might reject or turn their head when a spoon is headed towards them. The food might land everywhere but inside their mouth. Stop and try again tomorrow.
—Infants 7 to 9 months of age may be ready for foods with more textures and soft lumps. This includes jarred thicker pureed meat mixtures, dinners and fruit/vegetable combos. At 8 months of age, begin wheat cereals like cream of wheat.
—A sample of a typical diet for infants 8 to 12 months of age:
Breakfast: ¼ to ½ cup prepared powdered cereal or mashed egg, ¼ to ½ cup fruit, diced (if child is self-feeding), 4 to 6 ounces formula/breast milk. Snack: 4 to 6 ounces breast milk/formula and ¼ cup small diced cheese or cooked vegetables. Lunch: ¼ to ½ cup yogurt or meat, ¼ to ½ cup yellow or orange vegetables, and 4 to 6 ounces breast milk/formula.
Snack: 1 teething biscuit or cracker, ¼ cup yogurt or diced (if self-feeding) fruit, and 4 ounces water. Dinner: ¼ cup diced meat, ¼ to ½ cup green vegetables, ¼ cup grain (noodles, pasta, rice, or potato), ¼ cup fruit, and 4 to 6 ounces breast milk/formula. Before Bedtime: 6 to 8 ounces breast milk/formula. Follow with 4 ounces water or brush teeth afterwards.
—According to the recommendations, infants 0 to 6 months of age should not be served juice. Infants 6 months to a year should be given the pureed fruit instead of juice. The fruit also provides fiber not found in juice.
If juice is given, serve half juice and half water. For children 1 to 6 years old, limit fruit juice intake to 4 to 6 ounces each day of 100 percent fruit juice. Children may become malnourished if juice or other supplemental beverages replace meals.
No juice or milk should be given at bedtime. Any beverage other than water at bedtime will increase the risk of dental caries. According to the American Dental Association, infant gums under 6 months of age should be swabbed with a clean damp gauze or washcloth. Once teeth appear, use a baby toothbrush to brush their teeth with a smear of fluoride toothpaste the size of a grain of rice.
—Once your child is 1-year-old, start them on whole milk. This added fat is to ensure proper growth and brain development which is crucial at this stage. After age 2, switch to 1 percent low-fat or fat-free milk.
—Children ages 4 and under should be served bite-sized foods. Serve children one tablespoon per food for each year of their age. Serving less food than they will eat prevents overeating and allows the child to ask for more by listening to their hunger cues.
—An increased risk of choking is associated with popcorn, raisins, nuts, seeds, hotdogs, hard candy, jelly beans, hard raw produce (e.g., apples, carrots), chewing gum and gummy textured candy. These foods should be avoided until age 4.
—Sodas are not recommended for children under the age of 4. The acid and added sweeteners can harm the enamel of their teeth along with all of their organs.
These recommendations are for your child to grow as a healthy individual. It is your responsibility to ensure a healthy lifestyle for you and your family.
Information is from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics.
For information contact Gautreaux at the St. Mary Parish LSU AgCenter office, 500 Main St., Room 314, in Franklin. She can be reached at 337-828-4100 ext. 300 or email bgautreaux@agcenter.lsu.edu.

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