Healthy eating begins at birth with breast feeding. Exclusive breast feeding is ideal for the first four to six months of life while partial breast feeding, where breast milk is supplemented by infant formula, should be continued through the remainder of the first year of life and beyond.
Most first time mothers will be able to establish breast feeding. If a woman is unable or unwilling to breastfeed, commercial infant formulas are ideal substitutes.
Breast milk contains all the nutrients necessary for growth and development,protects against chest, ear and gut infections, decreases the incidence of atopic dermatitis & food allergies and decreases the likelihood of development of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
SOLIDS should be introduced to baby’s diet between the ages of four and six months, starting ideally with a single grain, iron-fortiﬁed cereal. Other foods e.g. pureed meats, vegetables and fruit, are then gradually introduced one at a time with an interval of 2–3 days between each new food.
ENERGY DENSITY: Nutritionists now focus on the energy content rather than the nutrient composition of food when advising about diet. While 1 gram of carbohydrate or protein produces 4 kilocalories (kcals), 1 gram of fat produces 9 kcals. Water produces no calories and water rich foods add weight without adding much energy.
Very low energy dense (ED) foods: vegetables, fruit & broth-based soups
Low ED foods: cooked grains, low fat meats
Medium ED foods: meats, cheeses
High ED foods: chips, crackers, cookies, chocolate, butter & oil.
SECOND YEAR THROUGH ADOLESCENCE: MEALTIME IS FAMILY TIME
The family should eat together at least once per day, perhaps at the evening meal. Mealtime is one of the great opportunities for parents, children, and extended family to get to know each other and share the day's experiences. Research confirms that children and adolescents who regularly share family meals consume more fruits and vegetables, are less likely to engage in risky behaviours such as cigarette smoking and alcohol and drug use, are at reduced risk for disordered eating, and have improved family relationships.
Start every day with a healthy breakfast.
At each meal, half of the plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables, a quarter with a source protein, and the remaining quarter with grains, preferably whole grains (USDA recommendation).
Children will be more likely to eat healthily if they are involved in meal preparation (e.g., helping to shop at the grocery store, helping in the kitchen, and cleaning up).
Children will innnately enjoy energy-dense, sweet foods, as well as salty foods, but need to learn to like foods that have more complex flavours, such as vegetables. These should be introduced as soon as baby has been started on solid foods.
Repeated exposure of young children to foods with complex flavour and role modelling by parents, siblings, and other family members will increase the liking of an originally disliked food.
- low-fat yoghurt (snack size)
- vegetable sticks with low fat dip
- fresh, canned, or dried fruit
- peanut butter with fruit or rice cakes
- vegetable soup
- piece of low-fat cheese
- whole grain pretzels (snack size)
- crackers (snack size)
Carbohydrates: provide energy for growth, physical activity, and maintenance. Found in starches (potato, grains such as wheat, rice and oats; sweet potato, yam) and sugars (lactose in milk, sucrose and fructose in fruits).
Proteins: provide material for building of organs and systems. Found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, peas, beans, nuts, and whole grains.
Fats: provide energy and material for insulation of organs. Found in meat, fish, milk, butter, cheese, margarine, nuts, and vegetable oils.
Vitamins: compounds that control essential chemical reactions in the body and that are required in only small quantities from our diet. Found in eggs, meat, fish, dairy products, fruit, grains, and vegetables.
Minerals: elements (sodium, iron, calcium, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, iodine) that are incorporated into the structure of essential chemical compounds. Found in fruit, vegetables, and dairy products.
Limit eating out at restaurants, especially fast food restaurants.
Limit portion sizes.
Avoid sugary drinks, which have been linked to excessive weight gain and to lower consumption of healthy foods.
Drink water when thirsty.
Have family dinners with ample servings of reduced energy dense foods (e.g., salads, soups, steamed mixed vegetables).
Limit children's television viewing time to less than 2 hours per day and do not place a TV set in the bedroom where children sleep. Prolonged television viewing discourages physical activity and promotes excessive intake of high calorie foods.
Engage children in regular, preferably supervised physical activity.