April 22 through 26 is Every Kid Healthy Week across the country, which is a time for us to reflect on school health and wellness and the positive steps we can take as a community, state and country to improve the lives of our children. While Every Kid Healthy Week puts a specific focus on schools, it also serves as a great reminder that special steps should be taken for our children’s health that’s a bit different from our own.
For example, did you know that what your child eats should be different (to a degree) from what you, as an adult, eat?
Think More About Nutrients Rather Than Food Types
A recent psychological study found that there’s a disconnect in how adults and children perceive food. For example, kids thought of “adult” food as fruits, vegetables and meat, while adults thought of “kids” food as breakfast cereal, processed food or food that comes in interesting colors or shapes.
When you’re thinking about what you and your child should be eating, first consider that all food is exactly the same whether you’re an adult or a child. Every single person should be getting healthy servings of Fiber, Fat, Protein and Greens. Sure, you may put your kids breakfast on their plate in the shape of a smiley face, but the core of what your respective breakfasts are made of should be the same.
Realize that Growing Bodies Have Different Needs
So we now know that you and your child should be eating the same types of food (neither one of you should be eating a daily breakfast of sugary cereal or eating chicken nuggets straight from the freezer aisle). But there is value in serving your child different quantities of those main food groups.
Once your child has transitioned from breastmilk or formula, you have the opportunity to start introducing them to the types of foods you love and enjoy. There are certain signs that will present themselves to show that your baby is ready for solids, including:
- Being able to hold their head up and sit without support
- Looking and reaching for food
- If your baby seems hungry even after being given breastmilk or formula
It’s important to introduce foods slowly at this stage, so you can understand how your baby responds to different foods (and you can pick up on any irregular allergies). Plus, your child’s iron stores will start being depleted as they begin growing more rapidly, so iron-rich foods are incredibly vital during this time. Look for pureed meat, chicken, tofu or legumes as a way to introduce more iron into your child’s diet.
As they get more accustomed to real food, you can very gradually transition them from pureed food, to soft food, then mashed to minced and on to solids. Always keep your pediatrician up-to-date with your child’s food progress.
From around 12 months and on, your child should be ready for a much broader variety of foods and can eat the same type of food the rest of your family enjoys. As a way to avoid a picky eater, it’s important to start your child off eating the same foods you are and to not show preferential treatment. Around this age, your child’s body will naturally start craving textures. In fact, textures are incredibly important in developing a toddler’s speech! However, keep food sizes in mind to avoid any choking hazards.
Give your child a variety of:
- Vegetables of different types and colors
- Fruit (if you’re giving them grapes, be sure to cut them up first)
- Whole grains and fiber rich foods like quinoa, barley and couscous
- Lean meats and fish
- Yogurt and cheese
Keep an eye on how spicy your foods are when your children are this young. Their palates are more sensitive to heat and spice than ours are.
Older Kids and Teens
By this point, your child can eat absolutely anything you eat, as long as there are no sensitivities or allergies. The same foods you know your body tends to crave are likely the ones your child is craving as well. Stock up your pantry with plenty of foods that are rich in fiber, fat, protein and greens.
Always Consult Your Pediatrician
Are you unsure of what your child’s eating habits should be? When should you transit from milk or formula to food? We’re here to help. Our pediatricians are as knowledgeable as they are compassionate and will take care of your family’s health.