Since this is a holiday weekend, I wanted to publish a quick post for those of you with little ones this Thanksgiving. BabyCenter recently sent out an email listing foods to avoid feeding your baby. Junk food does more bad for your baby than it does for us grown-ups, since their tummies are so small and can easily become filled with non-nutritious calories.
Remember, your baby’s diet (under 1 year) consists primarily of breastmilk (or formula) and is COMPLEMENTED by solids to provide her with new experiences with textures and flavors. Foods should be nutrient-dense, packed with lots of vitamins and minerals. These foods are whole foods, like fruits, veggies, and meats. Over 1 year old, babies should still consume nutritious foods so their bodies and immune systems become stronger.
With the holidays being filled with such excitement and delicious foods, it may be tempting to sneak in a spoonful of pumpkin pie filling, a smidgen of cranberry sauce, or a little buttery mashed potatoes (or sugary sweet potatoes) to your baby. But keep in mind these foods are not healthy for him. Added sugar and fat fill up a baby’s calorie needs with junk and can negatively affect their taste preferences for healthier options for the future. And, when consumed at even this young an age, these habits can lead to Type 2 diabetes and weight problems in the future.
Foods NOT to feed your baby:
- Gelatin desserts
- Processed meals
Juice – Even 100% juice is a no-no. This is because the juicing process saves only the juice and leaves out the beneficial fiber. Pediatricians urge against giving juice until at least 2 years old, and only in a limited amount. Instead, for babies 1 year and younger, only breastmilk (or formula) should be given. If baby is 6-12 months old, a small amount of water can be given too, but breastmilk (or formula) should be the only beverage they have. After 1 year, cow’s milk can be given. But still, no juice. Additionally, some juices (like pear and apple) can increase food’s passage through the gut, which can lead to impaired nutrient absorption and diarrhea.
Instead: Breastmilk (or formula) and water. If you want to flavor your baby’s water (though your child probably isn’t chugging down a bottle), consider adding a slice of fresh strawberry, cucumber, or lemon to your toddler’s sippy cup!
Soda – This is an obvious one, but there are still so many babies who are given soda, and even as infants! It’s ridiculous. I was at PetSmart about six months ago and the Banfield clerk who I’d gotten to know during our pregnancies. When her baby was 4 months old (and Jia was 2 months old), she told me that her son no longer drinks formula. She said he refuses a bottle and will only choose a soda can, because her brother’s girlfriend introduced her baby to soda “a while ago”!! Anyway, soda is full of sugar. FULL OF SUGAR. One can of soda equals about 9.5 teaspoons of sugar. That’s 135 calories 100% from sugar. According to the USDA, a 4 month old requires about 548 calories per day. Parents should realize that for us, 135 calories isn’t AS bad when compared to our daily caloric requirement of well over 1,000 calories. But, when your requirement is only 548 calories, it’s important that those calories are nutritious. Soda is not that.
Instead: See options above.
Crackers – With lots of sodium and starch, this “easy” snack quickly becomes a filling snack that lacks nutrients. Babies shouldn’t consume added salt, as most babies these days are getting way more than the recommended intake of sodium.
Instead: Fruit slices, like apples, pears, or even oven-bake some sweet potato chips (for those old enough to eat). There are also recipes on pinterest for teething crackers that offer whole wheat flour and sodium-free benefits if your little one must have a cracker-like snack.
Gelatin Desserts – OK, so before reading this BabyCenter article, I didn’t know where they were coming up with gelatin desserts as a commonly given “wrong” food. But, apparently some parents give their little infants and young toddlers gelatin because they think it offers a source of protein (being that gelatin itself is made from animal bones and cartilage). The J-E-L-L-O commercials probably make it seem like an OK snack, too. Due to the nominal amount of protein in this snack, what this dessert actually offers is way too many empty calories, filled with sugar and artificial coloring and flavors.
Instead: Baked or smashed apple with cinnamon
Processed Meals – Food processing, which can vary in degree of how much the food has undergone from farm to table, is unavoidable to an extent. Foods like these include processed cheese products, frozen meals, chips, meat products, etc. However, overprocessing foods lowers the overall nutritional value of the food and adds chemicals, fat, sugar, salt, artificial flavorings and colorings. Little babies’ bodies need the best nutrition to nourish their development, with optimal levels of vitamins and minerals, so it’s best to steer absolutely clear of these foods.
Instead: Freshly-cooked and prepared foods, whole meats and cheeses. The fewer ingredients in the label, the better.
Ideas For Baby’s First Thanksgiving:
If your little one is already over the recommended 4-6 months old and has started to eat solids, here are some ideas for your little ones’ “feast”:*
A baked apple with sprinkle of cinnamon
Mashed sweet potatoes with sprinkle of cinnamon
Mashed potatoes (boiled red skin potatoes, mashed, and add breastmilk or formula to make it creamy), no gravy
Small, chopped finger-friendly pieces of turkey (no skin)
*remember, don’t overwhelm your baby’s tummy with too many options and big servings. Total should be what you would normally feed your baby at each solid meal. For Jia at 9 months, she eats about 3-4 ounces of solids for her larger meal (half a cup), so I would just eyeball to be sure she doesn’t get overfed with solids so much that she misses out on a full nursing session.
Happy Stuffing, Little Turkeys!!
Baby Center: The Five Worst Foods for Babies – http://www.babycenter.com/0_the-five-worst-foods-for-babies_10320507.bc?scid=momsbaby_20141125_A:3&pe=MlVEdVAwSHwyMDE0MTEyNV9B
The United States Department of Agriculture http://www.nal.usda.gov/wicworks/Topics/FG/Chapter1_NutritionalNeeds.pdf
The United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database: http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/4351?qlookup=14400&max=25&man=&lfacet=&new=1