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Feeding Infants and Toddlers - Healthy Growth

Being overweight as a child dramatically increases the risk of obesity in adulthood, with accompanying health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.  Overweight children also often suffer emotionally from social teasing and ostracism.  However, our current culture has also equated health with extreme thinness, which is dangerous in and of itself.

Children need to learn that a healthy weight has little to do with numbers, and everything to do with lifestyle.  Encouraging frequent physical activity, along with reasonable eating habits will lead to a healthy weight for any given child (also determined by build and genetic predisposition.)  Children should be encouraged to accept and respect their body shape regardless of whether they fit into skinny jeans, as long as they are living a healthy lifestyle.

How do you raise a child to eat well?

  1. Clear the house of junk food and unhealthy snacks.  If it isn’t available, it won’t be eaten.  Having no ice cream in the house makes it that more special to go out for an ice cream treat.
  2. Have a variety of healthful snacks available to choose from at snack-time.
  3. Provide 3 meals and 2 snacks a day- no constant grazing or eating away from the table.  If your child isn’t hungry at a mealtime, don’t force them to eat.  If you have to chase a child with a spoon, they can’t be that hungry.
  4. Make mealtime a family affair as much as possible- clear away the toys and turn off the TV.
  5. Don’t talk diet- talk lifestyle.  “We eat this way to keep our bodies healthy.”
  6. Serve a fruit and/or vegetable with every meal.
  7. Allow your children to help select menus, and prepare foods.
  8. Serve recommended portion sizes on smaller plates- this helps the plate look full.
  9. Encourage your child to eat slowly- it takes time to realize that you are full.  Allow seconds of vegetables or fruit.
  10. Don’t be a dictator- recognize that special occasions can involve cake and ice cream without making the child feel guilty.
  11. Don’t force foods that your child despises, allow for the occasional substitute without becoming a short order cook.
  12. Explain why certain foods are better for you in easy to understand terms- milk for strong bones, carrots to keep our skin and eyes healthy…
  13. Do talk about the obvious- if your child is uncomfortable about how she looks or feels, discuss it openly and encourage any healthy improvements that might be made in her lifestyle.  But also reinforce the idea that we are not all made from a single mold, and different body shapes and sizes can all be healthy.
  14. Be a role model- exercise (or play) as a family.  Eat the same foods you are encouraging your child to eat.
  15. If your child is having a hard time adapting to healthy changes, create a reward system for reaching goals.
  16. Above all teach MODERATION- this is the one skill that will last a lifetime.

Normal growth parameters:

By 1 year of age your child will approximately triple his birth weight.

By 2 years of age your child will approximately quadruple his birth weight (a significant slowdown in weight gain and intake.)

Above 2 years of age, your child will grow about 2-4 inches a year, and gain 4-5 pounds a year.

Middle childhood- your child will grow about 2 inches and gain about 6 pounds a year.

Early puberty- your child will gain about 2 inches and 9-10 pounds a year.
Late puberty- 4 inches a year, with variable weight gain.

For more details on how to create a healthy diet, and for written resources, see our Healthy Eating handout on our website.