We know childhood obesity is an epidemic. But would you believe unbalanced eating habits develop as early as 9 months of age? Indeed, according to a National Health and Examination Survey commissioned by baby food company Beech-Nut, today's kids are eating too much of the wrong things, even as infants.
Researchers looked at the food and beverage consumption of babies, from birth through 24 months, over the course of a decade, and were startled to learn that as children start eating more foods beyond those formulated just for babies, French fries, sugary drinks, and sweets make up more of their diets than vegetables and whole grains. And frighteningly, by 1 year of age, kids are consuming adult levels of sodium and added sugars.
Parents.com talked to Nicole Silber, MS, RD, pediatric dietitian and Beech-Nut Nutrition consultant, via email to get some tips for how to avoid this fried food and sugar trap. "There are ways to successfully transition children in their most formative years to a lifetime of healthy eating, and it can start as early as a child's very first bites of food," she said. "In fact, research shows that babies have more balanced diets between 6 to 8 months when they are given baby food. This is why I recommend that parents keep baby food in the mix a bit longer, either on its own or by incorporating baby food into the process of transitioning to table foods."
She suggests giving your baby yogurt topped with a fruity baby food and cereal, for example. "Doing so helps provide a healthy mix of the right soft and solid foods needed to help get your baby accustomed to solid foods, all while maintaining proper nutrition and balance for your babies' diet."
Silber offers these additional tips for parents:
The bottom line: We are shaping our kids' eating habits for life even before they know how to say the word "food." What we feed our babies may shape their long-term health and help determine their risk for becoming obese. So make conscious decisions when feeding your baby and growing toddler, and plan ahead so you aren't just shoving French fries and cookies at him in a crunch.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.