By Nicole Avena, PhD
Feeding a baby can be so much fun, especially when you are trying out new feeds and seeing your baby’s reaction to different tastes. While most parents are able to offer their baby an assortment of different foods to try out, there are some things that parents should avoid.
- Sugary snacks– The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that when baby is around 9 months old you can start introducing two to three “snacks” per day. Don’t let the term “snack” make you (or baby) think that it needs to be a sweet treat or something unhealthy. A smaller portion of a fruit or veggies can serve as a snack. Heck, leftover lunch can be a snack. If you get your baby trained early enough to see fruit or a slice of bread with nut butter as a snack, you can try to continue supporting this belief as she gets older and wants to have cookies and chips.
- Fruit juice– According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, fruit juice should not be a part of an infant’s diet. If you still decide to give your baby fruit juice, hold off until he reaches 6 months of age and limit it to 8 ounces per day. Personally, I don’t think there is any need for an infant or toddler (or a child or adult, for that matter) to consume fruit juice. It is mostly sugar, and water or whole fruit purees are healthier choices.
- Grapes– Although they are a fruit, grapes can be problematic for babies for a few reasons. First, they are a choking hazard. If swallowed whole, they can easily get stuck in the throat. Food stuck in the throat can block oxygen from reaching the brain, and in 4 minutes or less brain damage or even death can occur. Second, grapes have one of the highest sugar concentration of fruits. If your baby likes them, be sure to cut them into quarters or even smaller for little ones, and try offering them mixed with other fruits in order to increase the nutrition, and decrease the sugar intake.
- Honey– Babies under age 1 should not have honey (or corn syrup). Honey and corn syrup can contain spores of bacteria that can grow in a baby’s immature digestive system and cause infant botulism (yikes!). Although it is very rare, it can be potentially fatal, so it is best to avoid honey and any products that use honey until after the baby’s first birthday.
- Low-fat foods– Although fats have a bad rap, they are a healthy part of a diet when the right kinds of fats are consumed. Babies and toddlers need fat to help with brain growth and development, so having fat-rich foods is important. However, you want to make sure that babies are consuming healthy fats, like mono-unsaturated fats, and avoid consuming unhealthy fats, like trans and saturated fats. If you are giving your child milk, opt for the full fat or 2% varieties over skim milk.
Nicole Avena, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Visiting Professor of Health Psychology at Princeton University. She is the author of several books, including What to Feed Your Baby and Toddler, and What to Eat When You’re Pregnant. The post was adapted from What to Feed Your Baby and Toddler.