As a child grows and develops, their dietary requirements change. The American Academy of Pediatrics has put together a guide to help parents understand what their child needs at each stage of life. In the first year of life, breast milk or formula is the best source of nutrition. However, this changes as your child grows.
Here are some things to know about your child’s dietary needs by age.
Providing a Variety of Foods to a Baby
During the first year of life, most a baby’s protein requirements are met by breast milk and formula, but it is important to provide other protein-rich foods for your baby once she is a year old. Protein-rich foods include meat, fish, tofu, eggs, whole milk, and cottage cheese. Additionally, some grains may provide some protein, too.
Providing a variety of foods to children will help them develop good eating habits as they grow older. You do not want to put fat or cholesterol restrictions on your baby; they need these nutrients for brain development and the nervous system. Even when they refuse certain foods, you can continue offering them foods to expose them to them.
Baby to Toddlerhood Nutrition
Your child’s body is busy transitioning from milk to solid foods in toddlerhood. By 12 months of age, they should eat a mixture of solid foods and milk daily. This means they should get two cups of full-fat dairy, one cup of fruit, and one cup of vegetables. Your child should also get two servings per day of protein-rich meats, poultry, or fish along with dairy products like cheese and yogurt daily. After age 2, low-fat milk and dairy can be introduced to your toddler.
Providing a Balanced diet for School-Age Children
A balanced diet is critical for optimal growth and development in school-age children. Few children in the U.S. consume enough nutrients to stay healthy. Instead, many are fed low-nutrient, high-calorie foods that lead to malnutrition and obesity. Malnourished children often experience poor growth, poor learning, weak bones, and tooth decay. Fortunately, parents can start educating their children early on the importance of eating a balanced diet.
A balanced diet for school-age children should contain foods from the five food groups, including protein, carbohydrates, fat, and fiber. Fruits and vegetables should be high in nutrients and low in fat, sugar, and saturated fat. Whole grains and low-fat dairy products are also healthy choices. Avoid high-fat foods, processed food, and drinks that are high in saturated fat. Children need a healthy balance of protein, vitamins, and minerals to grow and thrive.
Getting Enough Fiber in a Child’s Diet
It is important for kids to get enough fiber in their diet, but it will depend on their age. Many doctors recommend two to five cups of fruits and vegetables per day, but not all fruits and vegetables are equal sources of fiber. Some standout fiber sources include okra, avocado, carrots, baked potatoes, and apples. Even though most kids don’t always enjoy these foods, they are an excellent source of fiber.
Whole grains are rich in fiber. Whole grain flour can replace half or all white flour. Whole grains can also be added to bread and baked goods. Beans are great sources of fiber, too. Beans, such as lentils, are also excellent sources. Other good sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Beans and peas are particularly nutritious and can be eaten with various foods.
Make Sure Your Child’s Preschool and School Uses the Right Dietary Guidelines
As the parent of a toddler or preschooler, it can be hard to find the right childcare partner that will support your child’s nutritional needs. Contact Providence Children’s Academy to learn more about child care and education. We stay current on our students’ dietary, social, and academic needs. Check out our regularly updated menu, available to all students and parents.