Diet for Age
Nutrition needs and developmental skills change as a child grows. An age-appropriatediet is one that provides the nutrients a child needs to grow and to develop. It also includes foods that achild likes and can eat easily.
The Food Guide Pyramid from theUS Department of Agriculture shows the kinds and amounts of foods that are needed toprovide adequate nutrition for children. A healthy diet includes grains, fruit, vegetables, meat and meatsubstitutes, and dairy products. Some foods are hard or unsafe for children to eat because theirchewing and swallowing skills are not yet fully developed.
What is the information for this topic?
From birth until four to six months of age, infants rely on the sucking ability with which they are born.They obtain all their nutrition either from a bottle or from breast-feeding.Newborn infants feed every two to four hours and eat up to eight times a day or more.Breast milk provides all the nutrition a newborn infant needs. Man-madeinfant formulas are designed to be as much likebreast milk as they can be.
Between four and six months of age, an infant begins to take larger amounts of breast milk orformula at one time. This means that they may not want to feed as often. Their digestive systems havedeveloped more fully, so they can eat new foods. An infant who has doubled in weight since birth may beready to begin solid foods. The baby should also be able to sit up and have good head support.
Eating from a spoon is a new skill a baby must learn. Until about the age of 12 months, an infantcan manage only small amounts of food with a spoon or fingers. This eating method does not provide amajor source of nutrition. An infant continues to depend on breast-feeding or bottle feeding for mostnutritional needs.
Rice cereal is usually the first solid food to be given to an infant. It is thought to be the leastlikely to cause a food allergy. Infant barleyand oatmeal are other choices. Either strained fruits or strained vegetables can be offered next.
By the time the infant is six to eight months old, strained meats, egg yolks, and small amounts ofdairy foods can be started. At seven to nine months, an infant begins teething and can accepttextures in foods. Once an infant reaches eight to ten months of age, he or she can often tolerate morefoods. These may include wheat products, whole eggs, and larger amounts of dairy products.
Babies begin to use their hands to feed themselves crackers and soft foods. These includepieces of fruits, vegetables, and tender meats. Crunchy or stringy foods such as nuts, popcorn, or less tendermeats may cause choking. As the ability to eat finger foods and to use a spoon improves, an infant will eatmore solid foods. That means the baby can rely less on breast milk or formula for daily nutrition.
Learning to drink from a cup is a hard and often messy process. By the time they are oneyear old, most infants master this skill well enough to wean from a bottle. They may also lose interest inbreast-feeding at this point. New foods shouldbe started one at a time and at least two or three days apart. This allows theparent to watch the baby’s response to each food.
Providing a toddler with the right diet can be challenging. Children this age want topractice their new skills by eating with their fingers or trying to use a spoon. Appetite varies widelydue to a slower growth rate. Toddlers are also more aware of their surroundings and often becomedistracted. All these things affect what the child is willing to eat at any given meal. There is no longer onesingle food that will provide all or most of the child’s nutritional needs. A variety of foods is needed forgood health and steady growth.
The right portion size changes with age. One rule of thumb for feeding toddlers is tooffer one tablespoon of each food for every year of age. A child may choose to eat more or less than thisamount. Children should be given whole milk until they are two years old. This is because their developingnervous systems need the extra fat. From age 2 to 5, 2% milk is OK.
Toddlers often go on what are called food jags.This means they will eat only one or two foods for several meals or several days at a time. Studies show that mostchildren still meet their nutritional needs over time. The challenge for parents is to bepatient. It’s crucial to offer a variety of healthy foods. It is not a good idea to try to force a child to eat afood. This approach will only ensure that the food is never a favorite. Parents do not have togive a favorite food when a child refuses what is first offered. Food refusal at one meal will likelyresult in an improved appetite at the next meal or snack time.
Three meals and two to three snacks per day is ideal. Children cannot eat enough injust three meals to sustain their energy needs so they need between meal snacks. Many parentsthink that fruit juice is a good source of nutrition. The fact is, children who drink juice or soda betweenmeals are often less hungry at mealtime. Children who drink sweetened juices have a much higher risk ofdeveloping childhood obesity.
Choking can be a problem for children under the age of 4. At this age, chewing and swallowing skillsare still developing. Choking is also more likely if they are eating while running and playing. Eating anddrinking should be allowed only when a child is sitting. Common foods that toddlers tend to choke on include:
School-age children need the same types and number of servings of foods in their diet aspreschool children. However, they are able to eat bigger amounts at one time and may eat less often. Mostyoungsters who are age 5 and older can safely drink skim milk and still grow well. If they continue tohave high energy needs for growth, they may still need the extra calories that are found in 2% milk.
Food choices are more influenced by peers at school and by what they see on television. Childrenare bombarded with commercials for processed foods, such as sweetened breakfast cereals, fast food,candy, and soda. This gives rise to new concerns. Poor eating habits can lead toobesity and iron deficiency anemia. Anemia is ashortage of red blood cells. Children who have developed healthy eating habits are likely to continue to eatwell, despite these influences.
Article type: xmedgeneral