Special Diets and Picky Eaters
It is important that you introduce new foods to baby’s diet slowly so you can check for allergies along the way. Wait a few days before introducing each new item.
Keep an eye out for evidence that your baby is allergic. Clues include:
- Continual fussiness post feeding
- Obvious discomfort
- Excessive gas
- A red ring around the rectum that a zinc oxide preparation doesn’t help
- Unusual stool
- Excessive spit up
- Trouble Breathing
If any of these occur, speak with your baby’s doctor about changing baby’s diet.
These symptoms will show up within two hours of baby ingesting the allergen. Some allergies can be life threatening, so do not hesitate calling your doctor. Swelling of the face, lips or area around the eyes can be deadly, or if your baby begins vomiting severely or has diarrhea after eating, call 911 or your local emergency number right away.
There are even certain food allergies that won’t show up the first time, or even the first few times baby eats the item. Always watch for changes – symptoms may arrive later, especially if they are inherited.
Vegetarian/Vegan vs. Meat- and Dairy-Eating children
Many children these days end up on vegan diets due to allergies and food sensitivities or by the parents’ choice. If you make the decision to feed your child an exclusively vegan or vegetarian diet, the first thing you’ll want to do is speak with your doctor. Though both a vegan or vegetarian diet can give your child all the nutrition and vitamins of a non-vegetarian child’s diet, it will not be as easy.
By eliminating certain food groups like meat, milk or dairy, you’ll need to make sure they are receiving the proteins, calcium, iron and other nutrients their new diets may lack. Even vegan babies have a recommended 6-month diet of breast milk alone, but things get tricky as solids are introduced. Tofu, beans, healthy fats and calcium-rich vegetables will all be important. You may even want to see a nutritionist to make sure baby isn’t missing out on anything she needs to grow. Soy milk and rice milk can both be good substitutes for cow’s milk, but baby may need to take supplemental vitamins such as D and B12 as well.
Vegan and vegetarian babies can develop into healthy kids just as their friends with non-restrictive diets do, though some studies have shown that vegan babies may grow slower. The best way to assure your child achieves the ideal rate of growth is to guarantee they consume adequate calories, meat-eating or not.
Organic vs. non-organic foods
Buying organic means limiting the amount of chemicals you feed your family. Consult your doctor if you’re thinking about incorporating organic foods into your family’s diet.
If you do decide organic is the right choice for your family, do research on the products you buy, as even eggs can be organic. Look for packaging that says 100% Organic or has a USDA Organic sticker. Even a package that reads “Made with organic ingredients” can be 70% organic. Organic foods may cost you more money, but ultimately they are safer choices for your family.
How to get your fussy child to eat
Some mothers sing songs, others do dances, but sometimes the best thing to do with a picky eater is just keep trying, providing your baby with a wide variety of healthy foods and reintroducing ones previously rejected. If a baby is hungry, he will eventually eat what is in front of him, but most children won’t try new foods until they’ve been introduced a few times. Here are a few tips if you feel like you’re just trying again and again and again:
- Introduce new foods one at a time.
- Take all distractions away from the eating area.
- Offer one thing your child likes with each new food he or she has struggled with.
- Use portions appropriate for your child – very little pieces for very little ones.
- Accept that there may simply be some foods your child will never like. Don’t stress about it.
- Try to boost the nutritional value of the foods your tot already loves.
- Don’t give in and offer sugary foods as bribes.
There are many theories about what leads to childhood obesity and obesity later in life. Some think starting solids too soon may be the culprit. Theories include too much sugar, eating the wrong fats, overly enriched formulas, an unbalanced diet or simply a baby not getting enough sleep.
Any or all of these could be true, but here are the most reliable things you can do to prevent obesity:
- Exercise during pregnancy, specifically aerobic activity
- Try to keep a healthy diet during pregnancy, despite cravings
- Don’t smoke during pregnancy (though we often associate this with the premature birth of low-weight infants, it can have the opposite effect as baby grows up)
- Make sure baby gets enough sleep
- Wait to start solids until baby is 4-6 months old and you have checked with baby’s doctor
- Breastfeed for at least 6 months; continue to a year if possible
- Keep a calm household
- Limit bottles at bedtime
- Watch baby’s sugar intake, especially with juice
- As baby gets older, make sure she is getting enough exercise