According to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
As a country, we need to do everything we can to stop these rising childhood obesity rates.
Childhood nutrition starts in the womb. The foods the mother eats impacts the baby's health. Breast milk should be your baby's primary source of nutrition for at least the first six months.
There is a lack of education for how to feed the baby for the first two years. The foods your baby eats during this phase of life impacts future eating habits.
You can establish a love for food in your baby between four and six months of age. The risk of allergies and rising rates of obesity are linked to starting infants on other foods before four months. Introducing foods at this age should be more about creating good habits than weaning off breast milk.
Preservatives & GMOs
It's important to find baby food that doesn't have preservatives or that is diluted. Start with one single flavor at a time. It's easier to know what food intolerance your baby has if you test one flavor at a time. Stick with that flavor for three to five days and then try a new flavor. Try vegetables before fruit to develop a savory palate.
You want to feed your baby organic and non-GMO foods as much as possible. If price is a consideration, visit the Environmental Working Group to learn about the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15. This lets you know which produce items are loaded with pesticides and which ones are not.
Commercial vs. Homemade
Commercial baby food is great when you're on the go, but if you can make your own baby food, that's also a fantastic option. You will know exactly what is in the food and it's beneficial for your baby to smell you preparing home-cooked baby food. It sets your child up to be accustomed to your cooking.
Watch the Sugar
Watch out for the juices in the baby aisle. A couple sips of juice won't completely throw your child off the path, but it's a slippery slope. Why would your baby choose water over something so sweet and tasty? Children who drink sugar-sweetened beverages in their first year are twice as likely to drink them when they are school-aged. Fructose increases triglycerides in the body, promoting the number of fat cells in the first two years of life. Give your baby more water than juice.
Feed your child at least one meal per day that consists of just savory food. Save the fruit for one meal a day. Encourage your little one to stick to proteins and vegetables as much as possible.
Spice it Up
Babies don't need bland baby food. You can feed your baby pureed chicken with some spices. Fresh rosemary, oregano, basil and cumin are great for your baby. Avoid dried herbs because they're harder to puree. Mix carrots with cinnamon or fresh dill. Taste the food before you give it to your baby. And, when seasoning, just make sure you don't go over 1500 mg of sodium per day.
Breast is Best
You can nurse your baby as long as you like. As baby gets more nutrition elsewhere, mom doesn't produce as much volume of milk. It's fine to nurse your toddler.
Monitor your own baby's development. Your child should be eating table foods like with the family by one year, having appropriate-sized portions of the same food you eat. Food should be bite-sized, soft and moist so it's easy to maneuver. You can introduce your child to dissolvable puffs at seven months. Textured foods are perfect at nine months.
Food allergies also seem to be on the rise. This could be related to the increased number of cesarean sections. The bacteria in the mother's birth canal may contribute to a healthier gut microbiome in baby. Breastfeeding rates are also down. Babies are given good gut bacteria through the mother's skin. Formula and baby food are very sterile and don't pass along the same gut bacteria.
Listen in as Nicole Silber, RD, shares how to develop healthy eating habits in your baby.