Your Child and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

You’ve probably heard a lot about omega-3 fatty acids. You know you can find them in fish and other healthy fats, and you know you need them- but you might wonder what exactly being an ‘omega-3’ fatty acid means. Well, without going into all of the science-y details, it has to do with the number and position of certain double bonds that hold the fatty acid together.

Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential nutrient. This means that we have to have them, but our body doesn’t make them so we have to make sure we are getting them in our diet. Some common omega-3’s are DHA  and EPA.

Okay, so now we know what they are, but why are they good for us?

While omega-3’s are pretty well known for their benefits to the heart(like lowering the risk of coronary heart disease and the amount of “bad” cholesterol), they have a lot of other MEGA benefits as well. They can also help reduce inflammation and lower the risk of certain cancers and arthritis. They can help increase bone strength and decrease the chances of developing osteoporosis. They are also crucial for cognitive development in children and infants in the womb, as well as for eye health and helping the body absorb other nutrients. Some studies have even shown that omega-3’s can help slightly improve ADHD symptoms and depression in children.

Recommended Adequate Intakes vary at each stage of childhood:

0 to 12 months: 0.5 grams/day
1 to 3 years: 0.7 grams/day
4 to 8 years: 0.9 grams/day
9 to 13 years (boys): 1.2 grams/day
9 to 13 years (girls): 1.0 grams/day
14 to 18 years (boys): 1.6 grams/day
14 to 18 years (girls): 1.1 grams/day

A lot of people tend to add [...]

Ask the Dietitian: Starting Solid Foods for Infants

Question for “Ask the Dietitian:” What do you suggest as the first food for an infant and when? I’ve heard conflicting information about rice cereal. Thoughts?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you exlusively breastfeed for 6 months, but they also state that you can introduce solids between 4-6 months. For most babies, I would recommend introducing solids right around 6 months, but check with your pediatrician. Your baby should be showing interest in your food, holding their head up in a steady upright position, and sitting with some support.

New Baby Food Guidelines suggest that you can start with any food as long as it is a thin puree. You don’t have to start with cereal, but breastfeed babies at 6 months need a little extra iron in their diets, so I would recommend starting with infant oatmeal cereal first since infant cereals are fortified with iron. Some even recommend starting with meats, but honestly you can start with anything.

There was a lot of buzz about arsenic in rice last fall, this is most likely the cause of the conflicting information about rice. In case you missed out on the news published by Consumer Reports, check out this post, Arsenic in Rice. The Federal Department of Agriculture stated they would conduct their own research and possibly put limits on the amount of arsenic allowed in food and drinks (apple juice is also a concern.) Everyone is still impatiently waiting for their report. Here is an update from Consumer Reports.

My family and I have chosen to minimize rice consumption until the FDA puts out a new report. I personally would not provide rice cereal to my infant, but they do need iron fortified cereals. I [...]

How Healthy is Your Easter Bunny?

I know. I know. I know. Easter is a special occasion where kids should be allowed to be kids, which definitely fits into my philosophy of everything is healthy in moderation. But why does our culture suggest that kids must consume ungodly amounts of chocolate and candy to truly enjoy any holiday? With the risk of being called “that mom,” this a culture norm that I disagree with.

Last year, our Easter bunny brought my one year old puffs, yogurt melts, and cheerios. He was totally ecstatic to discover that the easter eggs were filled with something, much less something very yummy. He loved the Easter egg game so much, that we continued it for a couple of weeks after Easter. This was just fine for me since he was getting “healthy” foods in his eggs.

As Easter rolls around again, we have obviously upgraded from baby foods, but we still have not graduated to the typical candy. This is what our Easter bunny is bringing for my two year old:

Fruit Loops
Teddy Grahams
Granola Bites

My husband does insist that our little one have some chocolate on Easter, so we will have one golden egg, filled with something of my husband’s choosing. But if it is up to me, that egg will be hidden very, very well. 🙂 But honestly, I know my little one will enjoy the fruits and cereal the most. Sugar cereal is definitely a “special treat” in our house.

So what about your Easter Bunny? Is he breaking the candy rule this year?


New Guidelines for Introducing Allergenic Foods

A new journal article published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, discusses new guidelines for introducing allergenic foods. The allergenic foods include cow’s milk, egg, soy, wheat, peanut, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish. Here are the highlights from the article.

Moms should not avoid allergenic foods during pregnancy or lactation for primary prevention.
Breastfeed exclusively for 4-6 months.
Do not introduce an allergenic food as the first solid food. Begin with basically anything else:  meat, cereal, vegetables, or fruit. Once you have successfully introduced a few of these foods, then you can introduce an allergenic food.
Introduce allergenic foods at home instead of at day care or restaurant.
Give a small amount of the allergenic food. If there is no apparent reaction, continue to offer the food to your child gradually increasing the amount.
Offer one new food every 3-5 days to ensure that there is no reaction.
There are the two exceptions: cow’s milk and peanuts.
Do not provide cow’s milk to infants under one. This is not due to allergies, but because it can lead to kidney complications and low iron.
The other exception is peanuts. Nuts are choking hazards and should not be offered before age 1, but continue to be a choking hazard until age 4. Nut butters are also considered choking hazards if you give chunks of nut butter. Thinly spread nut butters are okay to be given with the same guidelines as the other allergenic foods.
If an older child has a nut allergy, see an allergist before offering peanut butter to your younger child since he is at an increased risk.
Previous guidelines have recommended that allergenic foods be delayed, but studies have shown that it actually increases the risk of becoming [...]

By |March 20th, 2013|Infants|1 Comment|

Determining Childhood Obesity at Birth

My first thoughts, “Are you kidding me? There is no way that you can predict human behavior well enough to determine if a child will be obese from their first breath of life.” The formula that is used to estimate childhood obesity at birth has several factors in the equation: birth weight, body mass index of the parents, number of people in the household, mother’s professional status (really?), and if the mother smoked while pregnant. You can check out the formula here, and find out your child’s risk of obesity.

The formula has proven to be accurate in Finland, the United States, and in Italy. So it surprisingly is pretty accurate. The website gives you an actual percentage of your child’s predicted probability. I think the percentage is very helpful instead of just telling you that your child is at risk for obesity. I know I would listen to my doctor more if he told me my child was 90% at risk vs 10% at risk for becoming obese.

It does not surprise me one bit that moms account for three of the factors in the equation, and dads just factor in one account. Even with many working moms and more and more dads involved with family life, moms still have such an important role in feeding their kids. Whether that be packing a lunch, grocery shopping, cooking, or just eating in front of our kids, all of these seemingly minor tasks have such a huge impact on our children’s eating habits.

The purpose of the formula is not for parents to stress more, but to make parents aware that their children are at risk. Childhood obesity is currently affecting 1 out of 3 children. It is [...]

New Baby Food Rules

Love the new rules that have come out about feeding babies! Makes so much more sense to me as a dietitian. Moms have so much more flexibility with their child’s first bites. Glad the research finally caught up! Curious about the change?

Real Food, Baby! Forget the white rice cereal. Start with anything you want. Okay, let me back up a little bit. I don’t want anyone feeding their baby fries or chips for their babies first food. Start with any soft, nutritious food like avocado, banana, cooked sweet potato, or any healthy food you are eating for dinner. Mash it up and add a little breast milk to thin it if you need to. I truly mean anything nutritious: meats, vegetables, oatmeal, fruits, mixed together, or by themselves. Just make sure you start when your baby is really interested in what you are eating. You will probably notice around 6 months.

No more Airplane! If your baby is looking bored or loses interest that means, “Stop.” No more, “one more bite.” We don’t want to encourage our babies to overeat. But do include your baby at the dinner table from that first bite. Your baby will enjoy socializing, and it will help make eating a pleasant experience.

Bland is not for Babies! Add variety and spice now, not later. You have a very special window of introducing foods until baby starts to walk. Take advantage and introduce your child to every vegetable and ethnic food you can think of. Back in the day, it wouldn’t be good if toddlers wandered off and picked berries or leaves that were dangerous. So toddlers are wired to be suspicious of foods.

Don’t Wait! You no longer have to wait 3-5 [...]

By |December 3rd, 2012|Infants|0 Comments|

Growth Charts

Growth charts are a great diagnostic tool if they are used and understood correctly. Just glancing at the charts without any understanding, can make them a bit tricky and cause some unnecessary anxiety for parents. Keep in mind that growth charts are not the only thing used when determining if your child is healthy. There are two different growth charts typically used. For children under 2, it is recommended to use WHO (World Health Organization) charts. For those older than 2, it is recommended to use CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) charts. Your child’s measurements are plotted on three different graphs: length to age, weight to age, and length to weight (BMI). You can print charts for your child from the CDC.

When you are looking at the chart length for age this is what the percentages tell you:

90% Your child is tall. When looking at 100 kids your child is taller than 90 of them.

Weight for age is a little trickier. Usually health care workers just look at weight for age for trends. For healthy children you don’t want to see a big decline or a big increase over time. You want to see consistency. This growth chart does not let you know if children are underweight or overweight. This is one of the biggest mistakes made with growth charts.

Weight to Length Ratio or BMI chart. This chart lets us know if your child is a healthy weight compared to their height. Here are what the percentages mean:

90% Your child is overweight.

No parent ever wants to hear anything besides their child is perfect! (Me either!) That [...]

Division of Responsibility for Feeding Kids

This is for the moms who have become short order cooks or for those who don’t want to become short order cooks.  Ellyn Satter is famous for helping parents feed their children. Here are her guidelines that you can find from her website,, as well.

Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding

Parents provide structure, support and opportunities. Children choose how much and whether to eat from what the parents provide.

The Division of Responsibility for Infants:

The parent is responsible for what
The child is responsible for how much (and everything else)

The parent helps the infant to be calm and organized and feeds smoothly, paying attention to information coming from the baby about timing, tempo, frequency and amounts.

The Division of Responsibility For Toddlers through Adolescents:

The parent is responsible for what, when, where
The child is responsible for how much and whether

Parents’ Feeding Jobs:

Choose and prepare the food
Provide regular meals and snacks
Make eating times pleasant
Show children what they have to learn about food and mealtime behavior
Not let children graze for food or beverages between meal and snack times
Let children grow up to get bodies that are right for them

Fundamental to parents’ jobs is trusting children to decide how much and whether to eat. If parents do their jobs with feeding, children will do their jobs with eating:

Children will eat
They will eat the amount they need
They will learn to eat the food their parents eat
They will grow predictably
They will learn to behave well at the table

Copyright © 2012 by Ellyn Satter. Published at

I know that this is easier said then done. Even knowing and teaching these guidelines, I still struggle with them sometimes. As a mom it is hard [...]

Feeding Guide for Infants

Here are some guidelines for feeding healthy infants from birth to their first birthday. Please remember that it is just a guideline. If you have concerns about your infant, talk to your pediatrician.

Newborn to 1 Month

Breastfeed about 10-12 times/ 24 hours or
Formula about 18-24 oz/ 24 hours.

1-2 Months

Breastfeed about 8-10 times / 24 hours or
Formula about 22-28 oz/ 24 hours

2-3 Months

Breastfeed about 8-10 times/ 24 hours or
Formula about 24-32 oz/ 24 hours

3-4 Months

Breastfeed abot 8-10 times/ 24 hours or
Formula about 26 – 34 oz / 24 hours

4-5 Months

Breastfeed about 7-9 times/ 24 hours or
Formula about 26-36 oz/ day

5-6 Months

Breastfeed about 7-9 times/ 24 hours or
Formula about 30-40 oz/ day

6 – 8 Months

Breastfeed about 4-8 feedings/ 24 hours or
Formula about 24-32 oz/ 24 hours AND
Infant cereal: 2-4 Tablespoons gradually increased to 1/4 cup between 2 feedings/ day
Pureed vegetables about 2 Tablespoons gradually increased to 1/4 cup between 2-3 feedings/ day
Pureed fruits about 2 Tablespoons gradually increased to 1/4 cup between 2-3 feedings/ day
Pureed meat about 1-2 Tablespoons gradually increased to 1/4 cup between 2-3 feedings/ day

* As you begin to introduce new foods, only introduce one new food at a time for 3 days in a row. If your child has a reaction to a new food, then you will know which food was the culprit.

*If you are providing baby foods from the supermarket then start with Stage 1. Usually after your baby has been on stage 1 foods for about a month or two they are ready for Stage 2. Some babies don’t prefer the thicker foods until a little later.

8-12 Months

Breastfeed about 4-6 feedings/ 24 hours
Formula about 24-32 oz/ 24 hours
1/4 – 1/3 [...]

By |October 3rd, 2012|Infants|0 Comments|

Don’t Feed that to the Baby!

Water and Cereal
The first six months babies should only receive breast milk or formula. No water or cereal until 6 months. By instinct your baby drinks by volume, not by calories. When you give your baby plain water, he will be missing some important nutrients and calories. When you put cereal in the bottle, it may lead to your baby getting too many calories. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeeding as the sole source of nutrition until 6 months. At this point the babies iron starts to diminish, and it is time to start introducing some solid food.

Starting solids at 6 months was a fun way for my husband and I to celebrate our son’s half birthday! My husband was very anxious to spoon feed our son. I remember him talking about looking forward to feeding him even when I was pregnant! (Have I mentioned my husband really loves food!)

Once your baby gets the hang of spoon feeding, he is ready for a variety of tastes. Be adventurous and have fun feeding your little one. The faces my son made when we introduced new foods were priceless! You will want to avoid some foods though. Here are a list of foods to NOT feed those under one:

Cow’s milk – their digestive system cannot break down the long proteins in milk.
Honey – can cause botulism (serious stuff)
Egg whites – their digestive system cannot break down the long protein in the egg whites.
Peanut Butter – considered a choking hazard until 2.
Choking Hazards – anything small and hard (grapes, hot dogs, candy, chips, raisins, nuts, etc.)

Besides these foods, feel [...]

By |August 8th, 2012|Infants|1 Comment|