Five feeding facts
Whether it’s advice from your best friend or words of wisdom from your mother-in-law, you may be bombarded with nutrition tips for your child. It all comes with good intentions, but sometimes the information is outdated or incorrect. Here are some common myths – and the facts – about feeding your child
1. Myth: Babies can’t have any milk until they turn one year old
Facts: There is some confusion around when you can introduce any milk products to a baby – and that’s a very different question than “When can I switch from breast milk/formula to cow’s milk?”
According to Health Canada, you can introduce milk products when your baby is between nine and 12 months of age. Start with shredded cheese or plain yogurt. You can also use milk for preparing recipes, such as cheesy noodles or oatmeal. However, you should not replace breast milk/formula with cow’s milk until your baby is one year old. Cow’s milk contains more protein, vitamins and minerals than breast milk or formula, and babies do not need this high nutrient load until they reach age one.
2. Myth: Fruit and juice have the same nutritional value
Facts: Fruit and juice are not the same. Whole fruit has more fibre than juice and it also has fewer calories and less sugar. Whole fruit can fill up little tummies and makes a great snack, but juice does not offer the same filling benefit. In fact, children do not tend to get full when they are drinking juice, so they can easily consume too many calories. Consider this comparison:
• 1 cup of sliced apple: 60 calories, 12 g sugar, 2.5 g fibre
• 1 cup of apple juice: 121 calories, 25 g sugar, 0.5 g fibre
If your child does drink juice, limit his or her intake to 4 to 6 ounces (½ cup to ¾ cup) per day if between one and six years of age.
3. Myth: Kids won’t eat whole wheat bread
Facts: Children will enjoy whatever they are used to eating. If you always use white bread and white pasta, that’s all they will know. If your child is still young, start the whole grain habit early. Use brown rice, whole grain pasta and whole wheat bread instead of their refined counterparts. The whole grain versions are filled with more fibre, disease-fighting antioxidants and essential vitamins.
If your child is older, start the whole grain transition with foods he or she already loves, such as cereal. Many cereals are made from whole grains (look for “whole” as the first word on the ingredient list), and oatmeal is an excellent choice too. Once there is no fear of whole grains, it will be easier to switch to “brown” pasta and bread too.
4. Myth: Omega-3 fat is only important for adults with heart disease
Facts: While omega-3 fat, specifically DHA, is important for heart disease prevention in adults, it is also crucial in the proper development of the brain, eyes and nerves of children under age two.
Experts recommend that children get 100 to 150 mg of DHA per day. Unfortunately, studies show that most one- to five-year-olds consume only 30 to 50 mg of DHA per day. The reported benefits of getting enough DHA include improved visual acuity, enhanced mental development, improved problem-solving skills and sustained attention, so it’s important to get enough.
DHA is found in fatty fish like salmon and trout. If your child doesn’t like fish, try DHA-containing milk, such as Neilson Dairy Oh!, or DHA-enriched yogurt for toddlers, such as L’iL Ones. Omega-3 enriched eggs are another good option.
5. Myth: Kids are picky eaters
Facts: Picky eating habits are very common in toddlers and children. The good news is that picky eating habits are usually short-lived. As long as your child is not losing weight and is continuing to develop normally, picky eating is not cause for concern. And, there are many things that you can do to help your child discover the joys of eating. Grocery shop together and choose recipes to prepare. Cook with your child – studies show that kids who are involved in the process are more likely to eat what they prepare!
Registered dietitian Cara Rosenbloom works with clients of all ages to educate and inspire them about healthy eating. She is president of Words to Eat By, a Toronto nutrition communications company.