In the last 30 years, childhood obesity has tripled in the United States, including in Utah. A recent study finds the diets of many infants and young children are not meeting pediatrician recommendations.
“What you feed your baby and toddler in those first few years of life, that’s the foundation of their eating habits later on in life,” said Ryan Carvalho, the medical director and pediatrician at Gerber, a baby food and baby products company and subsidiary of Nestlé group.
“Children are not little adults. When you’re starting a child out on solid foods and introducing them to solid foods for the first time around six months of age, just know that those tiny tummies need big nutrition. Try and make every little bite count.”
Carvalho said many children lack the right amount of iron in their diets. He said beef and iron fortified infant cereal are ways to improve their diets.
Slowly introducing vegetables into their diets is another way for children to get the nutrients they need. Regan Bailey, a professor of nutrition science at Purdue University, said one in four preschoolers were not getting a vegetable in their daily diets. Among the children who do eat vegetables, french fries are their number one choice.
“Taken together, these put our children at high risk for key nutrients that they’re not getting enough of like vitamin D, fiber and potassium, but they’re also getting too much sugar, sodium and saturated fat,” Bailey said.
How do we get children to eat more vegetables? Bailey said it’s easier said than done.
“Studies have shown that it can take up to 10 attempts for kids to like a new food,” he said. “We also have to make it fun. We can’t make it a high-pressure situation.”
Obesity rates in children are on the rise but Carvalho said there is some good news.
“The good news is that more mothers are breast feeding and more mothers are breast feeding longer which is great news,” he said.
Children are eating more fruit than in the past and Carvalho said children are eating more whole grains to improve the fiber in their diets.