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Health & Parenting

What to Feed Your Baby and Toddler

New to parenting? Here are the nutrition basics you need to know.
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Toddler Time continued...

With the exception of reduced-fat milks, your child can eat nearly any food after age 1 as long as it's in a form that's safe for him, such as pureed or finely chopped. A family history of allergies makes certain foods off-limits for some toddlers. Check with your pediatrician about your child's special needs.

Toddlers tend to be erratic eaters. Growth spurts, painful teething, and illnesses all contribute to their fickleness about food. So does a general fascination with their surroundings and with their newfound physical prowess. Many times, toddlers are more interested in pulling themselves to a standing position or learning a new word than with eating. One thing's for sure: toddlers eat when they are hungry.

The Juicy Facts

Juice is perceived as healthy, and it is -- to a point. Beverages containing 100% fruit juice supply several nutrients, including healthy plant compounds called phytonutrients. Juice is not a necessary part of a child's diet, however.

The AAP suggests waiting until at least age 6 months to introduce juice to infants, and limiting juice to 6 ounces (3/4 cup) per day until age 6. Because juice is sweet and refreshing, children may come to favor it over breast milk or infant formula, which are far more nutritious.

"Plus, drinking juice can provide lots of unnecessary calories," says Tanner-Blasiar.

Food for Older Toddlers

After he or she reaches age 2, your child can have the same foods the rest of the family eats.

"It's fine for children to eat what the family eats, but you must make it healthy," says Tanner-Blasiar.

Offer your toddler meals that include a variety of healthy foods, such as whole grains, lean protein, reduced-fat dairy foods, fruits, and vegetables cut up well so your child can chew and swallow them safely. Now's the time to phase out some fat; serving reduced-fat dairy foods is one easy way.

"Fat isn't inherently bad," says Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts University School of Medicine. "It's just that children don't need as many calories at this age."

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