Jen Graham, MSH, RDN, CSP, LD/N, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare
Many parents are left wondering what and how much they should feed their baby when they are starting to eat solid foods. They automatically go to the internet thinking they will find a clear answer. Unfortunately, there are a variety of answers to this question, whether right or wrong. This often leaves new parents even more confused.
Fortunately, there is a group of people that have the right answers. Enter, the registered dietitian. Registered dietitians are trained professionals who offer evidenced-based guidelines on any nutrition topic – and a registered dietitian who is a certified specialist in pediatric nutrition will know exactly what to do.
Here’s a breakdown by age on children’s nutrition and portions from a pediatric registered dietitian!
- 4 - 6 months
- At 4-6 months, a baby should start taking pureed foods, often in the form of baby cereal, fruits, vegetables and meats.
- No one food is considered the best to introduce first. However, focus should be made on foods that are higher in iron and zinc such as pureed meats and iron-fortified baby cereal.
- Simultaneously, they will be getting most of their nutrition via breast milk; 24-32 ounces per day, depending on the size of your baby.
- 12 months
- By 12 months, they will have had enough time to adjust to a variety of flavors and textures, developed the skills needed to hold food in their mouths and chew with what little teeth they have.
- A baby will be eating about 4 servings (1-2 Tbsp. each serving) each of breads, baby cereals and other soft starches; 4 servings (2-3 Tbsp. each serving) of soft, cut, fruits and vegetables; and, 1-2 ounces daily of soft, finely cut or chopped meat or other protein foods.
- Milk intake will remain the same, but will be combined with their meals.
- 12+ months
- From 12 - 23 months, a child will transition from breast milk to 2 cups per day of low-fat milk/milk alternatives and 1 cup equivalent per day of milk products such as 1 ½ ounces of natural cheese or 1/3 cup shredded cheese.
- Meats and other protein foods should equate to 1-½ ounces per day. A 1-ounce equivalent could be 1-ounce beef; ¼ cup cooked beans, 1 egg, etc.
- Breads, cereals and starches should equal 2 ounces per day. A 1-ounce equivalent of this food group might look like 1 slice of whole grain bread or 1 cup dry cereal.
- Fruit intake should equal 1 cup per day. 1 cup equivalent would be 1 cup of fruit or ½ cup dried fruit.
- Vegetables should meet ¾ cup per day. An example of one-cup equivalent of vegetables is 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or 2 cups of raw leafy greens. At this age, fats are not limited due to the higher requirement for growth and development.
A sample menu below is an example of what a typical day for a toddler would look like:
- Breakfast: 6 oz. low-fat milk, 1 banana
- Morning Snack: ½ English muffin, 1 tsp. margarine, ½ oz. string cheese
- Lunch: 6 oz. low-fat milk, 1 small egg, 1/3 cup pasta, ¼ cup green beans, ½ cup sliced strawberries
- Afternoon Snack: ½ cup low-fat milk, 4 whole-wheat crackers
- Dinner: ½ cup low-fat milk, 1-3 Tbsp. chicken, ¼ cup marinara sauce, ¼ cup steamed broccoli, 1 tsp. olive oil
Learn more about nutrition guidelines at TMH.ORG/TMHFORLIFE.