Your infant, toddler doesn’t have healthy eating habits, study finds

Is your baby being encouraged to eat fruits and vegetables? Andy Sharp / For the American-Statesman.

A new study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics today, which will be in the June issue of “Pediatrics,” looked at what infants and toddlers were eating and whether they were being encouraged to choose healthy foods.

The study “Trends in Food and Beverage Consumption among Infants and Young Toddlers: 2005-2012,” used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and looked at changes from the years 2005-2008 and 2009-2012.

The study found that about 25 percent of 6-month-olds to 11-month-olds had no vegetable consumption and it was about 20 percent of the 1-year-olds.

A 1 year old was more likely to have fried potatoes in a day than a green vegetable.

Almost  60 percent of infants ages birth to 5 months did not consume any breast milk, but the good news is that fewer parents are giving food before six months, which is in alignment with nutritional guidelines for infants.

A few trends in specific groups did emerge:

A decline in juice consumption for 6-month-olds to 11-month-olds was found in non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks, but not among Mexican Americans. Mexican American children also became less likely to be given breast milk instead of formulas. One good trend for Mexican American 1-year-olds, they are drinking soda less often.

The study calls for more policy guidelines to encourage healthier habits earlier on.


What should children eat when?



There isn’t an order as to which foods to introduce first, though most doctors still recommend cereal to start because of its convenience and parents’ ability to gradually thicken it by decreasing the amount of formula or breast milk mixed in as kids get more and more used to eating.

Typically, kids lose the tongue thrust reflex between 4 and 6 months, which is when parents can start them on food. Before that time, babies will just push the spoon away with their tongues and parents won’t be successful at getting food inside. Also, kids usually will start becoming interested in their parents’ food around this time and like watching them eat, says Dr. Bradley Berg, medical director of pediatrics at Scott & White Hospital in Round Rock.

If you had heard that babies should have vegetables before fruits, you can ignore that. You also can ignore the idea that babies shouldn’t have meat.

Dr. Elizabeth Knapp, a pediatrician with Austin Regional Clinic, does recommend introducing a new food that might be an allergen, like peanut butter or eggs, in the morning on a day when the parents will be around to watch their babies. Don’t give it to them when they are about to go to sleep or on a day when parents are sending them off to day care, she recommends.

First give them a lick off a spoon or a bite off your plate. Then give a pea-size amount for a day or two; move up to half a teaspoon; then stop worrying about how much you’re giving.

A reaction will typically look like lip swelling or hives, which are raised welts on the body that look like mosquito bites. It can also result in vomiting — not just spit up, but emptying the contents of their stomach.

If that happens, you should call your doctor. He or she might want to test for allergies or send you to an allergist.

The only thing parents should wat to introduce until after babies turn 1 year old is whole milk. Dairy products are fine, but whole milk has too much iron for babies to process, Berg says.

The more different foods parents are introducing, Knapp says, the more they’re ensuring that kids don’t get stuck in the one- or two-foods-only rut that sometimes happens during the toddler years.


Author: Nicole Villalpando

Nicole Villalpando writes about families in the Raising Austin blog and the Raising Austin column on Saturdays. She also offers a weekly and monthly family calendar at She tweets at @raisingaustin.

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