(BPT) – Experts agree that the food babies eat helps set the stage for growth and development, but did you know that it also impacts long-term eating habits and taste development?
Children who consumed fruits and vegetables infrequently and drank sweet drinks during late infancy showed those same habits at age six, according to new data published in the journal Pediatrics. Infants who consumed sweetened beverages more than three times a week at 10-12 months were twice as likely to be obese at age six.
These findings validate the 2008 Nestle Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS), which also found eating habits are set in early infancy and mimic unhealthy eating habits seen in older children and adults. FITS is the largest, most comprehensive dietary intake survey of over 3,300 parents and caregivers of young children. The FITS findings showed preschoolers are getting nearly one-third (400 calories) of their total daily calories from fats and added sugars, and common childhood foods such as whole milk, cheese and hot dogs are contributing to excessive saturated fat and sodium in young children’s diets.
Nutrition expert Dr. Kathleen Reidy, who heads Nutrition, Meals and Drinks at Nestle Nutrition, says, “What you feed your baby now affects them not just today, but tomorrow and beyond. The first years of a child’s life are a critical period of development, and instilling good eating habits during this time can help put a child on the path to a healthy future.”
For parents and caregivers, Dr. Reidy has some tips to help instill healthy eating habits for young children:
Meal time is game time
* Replace foods high in saturated fat with lean meats, low-fat dairy products and foods high in healthier fats such as avocado, fish and those made with olive, safflower and canola oils.
* Offer a variety of healthy foods, and try to set a good example by eating them yourself. If a child sees mom, dad or siblings eating a nutritious food, she may be more willing to try it.
* Milk is key in children’s diets and a top contributor of many important nutrients. Children over the age of two should be offered lower fat options such as one percent and skim instead of whole milk to limit saturated fat intake.
Don’t forget the fruits and veggies
* Pick foods low in salt/sodium, such as fruits and vegetables instead of those high in sodium like hot dogs, chicken nuggets and dishes that contain cheese.
* Offer a rainbow of fruits and vegetables for snacks and meals; for mixed dishes, choose items with a serving of vegetables.
* If your baby or toddler resists a new fruit or vegetable, don’t fret and try again. It can take up to 10 tries before a child accepts a new food.
A healthy snack attack
* Plan ahead for healthy snacks to take on-the-go. Pack fruit and vegetable pouches for older toddlers.
* Speak with family and other caregivers about limiting sweets and choosing healthy snacks when they are caring for your child.
For additional tips on providing babies and toddlers with the best nutrition and a foundation for healthy eating habits, visit www.gerber.com to learn more.