Food & Nutrition

Food and Nutrition


Food & Nutrition Guidelines for Young Children

In the book, “Child of Mine”, Ellyn Satter, R.D. states, “It is your job as a parent to avoid whenever possible, making the inevitable battles of the toddler period battles over food. During the time from 18 months to three years, your child’s rapid infant growth rate slows down, she becomes a 'demon explorer,' and she shows, at times, a fierce contrariness in her attempts to establish that she is a person separate from you. Her food intake decreases, and you will naturally become concerned. However, if you emphasize or enforce eating too much, you will arouse her need to exert her individuality and the battle will be on. Toddlers would rather exert their independence than eat.Successfully negotiating this tricky time demands a division of responsibility: you are responsible for what you child is presented to eat, she is responsible for what and how much she eats.This is an acclaimed book filled with the common sense approaches; the subtitle“Feeding with Love and Good Sense” pretty much says it all.



Dietary Guidelines

Choose My Plate,the latest dietary guide, offers personalized plans & interactivetools to help plan/access food choices based on the current dietary guidelines for Americans. Click on “Daily Food Plans” (left hand columnto access food plans by age.) 


Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides additional information.



Simple Ideas on Food Amounts for Young Children:

TODDLER —allow 1 tablespoon for each year or approximately ¼ of an adult portionexcept keep Milk and Dairy at the equivalent of 2 cups daily.

PRESCHOOLER — ½ to ⅔ of an adult portion except keep Milk and Dairy at the equivalent of 2 cups daily.



Foods to AVOID with Small Children

  • Many raw fruits & vegetables such as blueberries, grapes & other small pieces of fruit, raisins, raw carrot slices & sticks, apple slices.
  • Hard candies, nuts & popcorn.
  • Hot dogs, meat chunks (ground meats are best for a young child).
  • Honey, chocolate and peanut butter (due to possible allergies).
  • Caffeine products such as those in soft drinks, should not be given to children until at least age 2. 
  • According to a study commisioned by the Institute of Pediatric Nutrition, TOO much fruit juice isn't good for a child. Experts actually recommend NO juice before the age of 6 months. Older babies should drink less than 8 ounces a day.

Other Nutritional Concerns Related to Young Children 

--Information from Cornell University

  • Overweight Child—Dealing with overweight children is tricky, and parents should consult with their child’s physician for advice. Severely restricted reducing diets that adults follow are not recommended for children because the low amount of calories allowed may leave out some nutrients that children need for growth. The best approach is to try to control the overeating, particularly empty-calorie foods, and to encourage physical play for overweight children. One key to preventing obesity appears to be teaching sensible eating and exercise habits in early childhood.
  • Sugar—Sugar has been blamed for obesity, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, and hyperactive behavior in young children. However, scientific studies have not shown a direct link between sugar and any of these conditions. So far sugar has only been shown to increase dental caries.
  • The Sugar-Tooth Decay Connection—The amount of sugar eaten is not the only concern. The form that the sugar is in and when the sugar is eaten are perhaps even more important. A sticky caramel that clings to teeth, for example, may cause more dental problems than a soft drink. Sugared food eaten between meals are more likely to cause cavities than the same foods eaten with a meal, because other foods in the meal help to dilute effect of sugar on the teeth.
  • Artificial Sweeteners—Aspartame (marketed commercially as Nutrasweet®) is used in gelatins, puddings, dessert toppings, cereals, candies, and soft drinks. An amount of aspartame equivalent to sweetness of one teaspoon of sugar provides 1/10th of a calorie; a teaspoon of sugar has 18 calories. Aspartame is composed of two amino acids; (which makes protein) aspartic acid and phenylalanine. A few people have a genetic deficiency known as PKU disease that prevents the body from handling phenylalanine properly. This warning is found on food products containing aspartame. The FDA has set an Acceptable Daily Intake for aspartame of 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day. In other words, a child who weighs about 50 pounds can safely consume 1,135 milligrams a day of aspartame.  A 12-ounce diet soda contains about 200 milligrams of aspartame.
  • Fiber—The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend giving high-fiber diets to children, since these diets may not contain enough calories for their rapid growth. 
  • Salt/Sodium—The taste for salt is learned during childhood, and studies have shown that children get their salt-eating habits from their parents. Sodium is an essential nutrient and should not be eliminated but as we know, most Americans take in more sodium than they need. High sodium intake is one of several factors believed to contribute to high blood pressure and those with a family history of high blood pressure are more likely to develop this condition. Sodium is naturally found in many foods and an additive in many processed foods. To help establish health eating habits, parents can "go easy" on the salt shaker.  
  • Fats and Cholesterol—When it comes to children, there is disagreement among the medical community over whether cholesterol and saturated fats should be restricted. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that all healthy children two years of age and older should consume a diet reduced in total fat. AHA believes that atherosclerosis has its roots in childhood and that following a prudent diet early in life will lessen the risk of adult heart disease. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not believe in limiting fat and cholesterol in diets of children under the age of five. The Academy feels that there is not enough research evidence to suggest fat restrictions. Although the experts disagree as to the exact age when children should start eating a low saturated fat diet, they all agree it shouldn’t be before the age of two. The AHA also recommends that children who have a family history of early heart disease, or who have parents or grandparents with elevated blood cholesterol, should be tested some time after age two. Teaching a young child heart-healthy habits is an easier preventive measure than taking away established eating patterns of an adult. 

Food Related Websites:

  • Spoonful — Family meals and snacks recipes.
  • Cook 123 — Lots of recipes.
  • Home Baking — Baking tips and recipes.
  • Kraft — Recipes + cooking tips and ideas.
  • Clabber Girl Baking Site — Recipes & Baking Fun.
  • I Love Cheese — The American Dairy Association offers recipes and information on cheese.
  • All Recipes  — Provides recipes for a multitude of items + an easy search feature; also provides meal suggestions. Recipes may be authomatically adjusted to fit the size of your family.
  • Land O”Lakes — Recipes.
  • Tyson  — Meal Ideas and Recipes + a section on Food Safety related to chicken.
  • Pillsbury — Recipes for Holidays & Celebrations + Everyday Eats.
  • Mr. Food  — Sign up for Quick & Easy Recipes.
  • Kellogg’s  — Recipes for traditional Rice Krispies® Treats + lots of seasonal variations.
  • Chicken of the Sea  — Recipes.
  • The Idea Box   — Recipes.
  • Quaker Oats — Cooking & Recipes tab (at top of page) offers links to Recipe Finder, Baking 101, etc.​

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