Will your child be nutritionally deprived if she decides never to eat broccoli or if she takes just two bites at dinner every night and then squirms to get down from her highchair? Probably not. The nutritional requirements of a child of this age are simple and easily met. As a rule, your youngster should be eating three meals a day by age 1, plus a couple of healthy snacks. Strive to base the greater part of her diet on vegetables, fruits, and grains like wheat, rice, and oats. Only about 20 percent of the calories she consumes should come from meat, eggs, and dairy products. Two daily servings (about one or two ounces each) of meat will be adequate at this early age.
Physical growth this year is not as dramatic as it was in infancy. Nonetheless, your 1-year-old is still growing rapidly, and his food has to provide the building blocks for that development. Carbohydrates, found in grain products and fruits, give your little dynamo nonstop energy. Protein from meat and meat products is necessary for building new tissues. If you serve a vegetarian diet to your family, it's imperative that you work closely with your pediatrician to make sure your 1-year-old's diet contains the combinations of food types that provide the right balance of vitamins and nutrients.
Breast milk or formula made up the better part of your child's diet for most of her first year. As she graduates to more adultlike eating habits, milk and other dairy products continue to be necessary to provide calcium for your child's growing bones and developing teeth. Milk also provides some of the fat necessary for the brain growth that continues at such a rapid pace throughout this year. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you serve your child whole milk regularly (two to four eight-ounce glasses daily) until the age of 2, at which time you should switch her to a lower-fat milk like the rest of the family drinks.
Eggs, too, are a healthy part of your 1-year-old's diet, though he doesn't need more than three or four a week, including those in custards and baked goods. (And don't introduce eggs, which are highly allergenic, to children under age 1.) If you have a family history of cholesterol problems, be sure to discuss this with your pediatrician. Otherwise, your child can wait at least until his third birthday before having his first cholesterol screening.
Don't panic if you don't manage to serve your child green vegetables seven days a week, or if she doesn't drink enough milk on some days. Try to think of a diet that's balanced over the long run. Instead of tallying her intake on a daily basis, concentrate on whether she gets a variety of foods in her diet over the course of, say, an average week before worrying.
If your child dislikes most vegetables, speak with your pediatrician about the advisability of adding a daily vitamin supplement to her menu. You should also ask about fluoride if you have well water, or if you live in an area in which the water isn't fluoridated-vitamin supplements with fluoride are available by prescription in drops and chewable tablets.
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