Healthy eating: 10 tips for children up to 2 years of age
Healthy eating is fundamental to ensure children’s health, and proper growth and development. It also prevents diseases and avoids nutritional deficiencies, such as anemia.
The General Coordination of Food and Nutrition Policy of the Ministry of Health and IBFAN Brazil (International Baby Food Action Network) have elaborated an interesting material to help you deal with this issue:
Feed your baby with just breast milk up to the age of 6 months, without offering water, teas or any other liquid.
“Mother: before your baby is six months old, do not offer any other complement to breast milk. Breast milk is everything a child needs.”
After the age of 6 months, slowly and gradually introduce other foods, while keeping breast milk until your baby reaches the age of two years or more.
“Mother: to ensure your baby has a healthy growth, after it has reached the age of six months it needs to eat other foods in addition to breast milk.”
After the age of 6 months, provide it with complimentary foods (cereals, root vegetables, meats, legumes, fruits and vegetables) three times a day, if the child is still breastfeeding.
“Mother: the diet you offer to your baby, after the age of six months, must include grains (cereals and beans), meats, fruits and greens.”
Complimentary foods must be offered according to the family’s meal times, at regular intervals and taking a child’s appetite into consideration.
“Mother: your baby must be fed when it shows hunger. Following rigid timelines to offer food might hinder a child’s capacity to distinguish between feeling hunger and feeling satisfied after a meal. However, it is important to set regular intervals between meals (from 2 to 3 hours).”
Complimentary foods must be chunky from the start and be offered on a spoon; start with food that have a pasty consistency (porridges/purees), and gradually increase consistency until your baby is able to eat family meals.
“Mother: the consistency of complimentary foods is very important.”
Offer different foods to your child during the day. A varied diet is a colorful diet.
“Mother: try to offer a very colorful diet to your child.”
Stimulate the daily consumption of fruits, greens and vegetables during meals.
“Mother: a child who from a very early age eats varied fruits, greens and vegetables takes greater quantities of vitamins, iron and fibers, in addition to acquiring healthy diet habits.”
Avoid sugar, coffee, canned goods, fried food, soft drinks, candies, salty snacks and other treats in the first years of a baby’s life. Use salt moderately.
“Mother: some foods should not be offered to a small child because they are not healthy, in addition to suppressing its appetite and competing with nutritious foods.”
Care for hygiene when preparing and handling foods. It’s important to ensure they are adequately stored and preserved.
“Mother: caring for hygiene when preparing and offering foods avoids contamination and diseases such as diarrhea.”
Stimulate your sick and convalescent child to feed, by offering its habitual diet and favorite food, and respecting its acceptance of what you offer.
“Mother: a sick child needs to eat more to avoid loosing weight and be able to more quickly recover. That’s why it is important to keep breastfeeding and to offer your baby’s favorite healthy food.”
Recommendations to families with small children facing diet problems:
• Split the meal on an individual dish to make sure how much your child is really eating;
• Partake of your child’s meals, even if it is already eating alone. Help your baby if necessary;
• Do not rush your child. It may eat a little, play around and eat again. You should be patient and always keep a good humor;
• Feed your child as soon as it shows hunger. If your child has to wait for a long time, it may loose appetite;
• Do not force your child to eat. That might increase stress and further reduce its appetite. Meals must be calm and happy moments.