|Gillian Goodfriend, NCHPAD Registered Dietician|
"All babies begin life 100% pure. Feed them accordingly." This is the slogan for Earth's Best, an organic baby food company whose mission is to provide the healthiest, purest foods for children.
A few weeks ago as my husband and I were feeding our daughter her dinner, my husband remarked at how healthy she eats. At 9 months old, my daughter's diet consists of breast milk, whole grain cereal, vegetables, fruits and some meats. All of the baby food we make or buy is organic, which may or may not be necessary, but it makes us feel good knowing we are giving her what we feel is the best. After all, isn't that what we all want for our children?
As my husband and I continued talking, we realized how ironic it is that diets are so incredibly healthy for babies and then suddenly take a nose dive as the babies become toddlers. After doing some reading, I realized that parents often don't know what to feed their children when they transition to table foods (i.e. not pureed baby foods). Subsequently, the parents' unhealthy eating habits become their children's unhealthy eating habits and the childhood obesity epidemic continues. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008. The prevalence of obesity among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years increased from 5.0% to 18.1%. Children with disabilities are at an even greater risk for becoming obese.
According to the American Dietetic Association, the transition to table foods is the time when high-fat, high-sugar items like cookies and sweetened cereals tend to edge out good-for-you foods - especially fruits and vegetables. In addition, parents are reluctant to feed their kids foods that they themselves don't like. Experts say a toddler may have to try a food 8 to 15 times before he or she accepts it. Because of this, it is vital to start children early with healthy finger foods. It is the perfect way to introduce babies to the kinds of nutritious bits you'll want them eating for life.
Whether you are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or friend of someone who has a child, you can make a difference by being aware of the variety of wonderful foods a toddler can try. Below are some creative finger foods for toddlers:
Pieces of whole-grain pancakes
Pieces of whole-grain toast with all-fruit spread
Pieces of whole-grain waffle
Bites of whole-grain muffin
Whole wheat pasta
Fruits and Vegetables:
Pieces of well-cooked diced carrots
Pieces of banana
Pieces of very ripe pear
Small chunks of pineapple
Grated or shaved apple
Pieces of ripe mango
Cut up cooked green beans
Small pieces of kiwi
Small, well-cooked pieces of broccoli
Bite-sized pieces of cooked tofu
Chopped hard-boiled egg (no egg whites before 12 months of age)
Most children are ready to try some finger foods by 9 months of age. Talk to the child's pediatrician for specific advice. Always remember to avoid foods that are choking hazards for young children. These include hot dogs, popcorn, nuts, seeds, raisins, corn and hard, raw fruits and vegetables.
Please send any questions or comments to Gillian Goodfriend at firstname.lastname@example.org.