Academy: Parents and Caregivers Can Help Children Develop Healthful Eating Habits During Kids Eat Right Month™ and All Year Long

August 16, 2022

CHICAGO – Children's nutritional needs change as they grow. During Kids Eat Right Month, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages parents and caregivers to help children develop healthful eating habits as they mature into adulthood.

In August, the Academy and its Foundation celebrate the importance of healthful eating and active lifestyles for children and their families during its annual Kids Eat Right Month.

"The time between your child being an infant drinking breastmilk or formula to becoming a teen who grabs a burger with friends after school seems to happen overnight," says registered dietitian nutritionist Amy Reed, a Cincinnati-based national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Parents and caregivers can lay the groundwork for their children to choose healthful foods that meet their nutritional needs as they mature."

Reed provides the following tips to help parents and caregivers guide their children's nutritional journey

Infants: Because infants require a specific balance of nutrients that are easily digested, they drink breast milk or commercial iron-fortified infant formula. Do not try to make your own infant formula and do not feed your baby cow's milk or a plant-based milk. If you're using infant formula, follow the feeding instructions and expiration dates. If you have to feed your infant a new formula due to recent shortages, give them time to adjust to the taste of the new formula. If they continue to refuse it after a few tries, contact your physician, RDN, or another health care provider for additional guidance.

When babies show signs that they are developmentally ready for solid foods between four and six months of age, start supplementing their meals with foods that are safe to chew and swallow. By the end of their first year, infants should be introduced to a variety of foods to prepare their palate for new tastes as they grow.

Toddlers: Babies typically start to transition from a bottle to a sippy cup by the age of 1. Children between the ages of 1 and 2 years old are encouraged to drink whole milk and water and to limit 100% fruit juice to no more than 4 ounces per day. Toddlers should eat the same variety of nutrient-rich foods as older children and adults, just in smaller quantities. Serve food in bite-sized portions to avoid choking.

Preschoolers: Plan meals and snacks so that your child eats from all of the food groups. Children at this age start developing strong food preferences so continue to offer a wide variety of foods and repeatedly. It may take a few attempts or serving a food prepared in a different way before a child will like it. Try to avoid making a separate meal for your child.

Grade schoolers: Encourage your child to become more invested in their nutrition by helping to shop for foods, plan the menu and help in the kitchen with age-appropriate tasks. Serve regular, balanced meals and dine together as a family to instill good eating habits that your children can continue as they mature.

Teens: Continue to build your child's bone bank by encouraging them to eat and drink calcium-rich foods and beverages such as fat-free or low-fat dairy milk, yogurt or calcium-fortified soy beverages. Non-dairy sources of calcium include fortified cereals, beans, some leafy greens and canned salmon with bones, but the amount of calcium the body absorbs from these foods can vary. Teach them the value of breakfast to kick start their day and encourage them to stay hydrated throughout the day, especially if they play sports. Teach them how to read food labels and teach them basic cooking skills.

"Parents and caregivers play a significant role in guiding their children's nutritional choices. A registered dietitian nutritionist, the food and nutrition expert, can translate the recommendations of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to help children reduce their risk for developing chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, obesity or heart disease in later life," Reed says.

Kids Eat Right Month

Kids Eat Right Month was created in 2014 to mobilize registered dietitian nutritionists in a grassroots movement to share healthful eating messages to help families adopt nutritious eating habits.

"See the Kids Eat Right Month Media Materials for the 2022 campaign graphic, infographics and more information. To find a registered dietitian nutritionist near you, use the Academy's online Find a Nutrition Expert service.

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Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Representing more than 112,000 credentialed nutrition and dietetics practitioners, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy at www.eatright.org.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation is a 501(c)3 charity dedicated exclusively to supporting nutrition and dietetics professionals by empowering them to help consumers live healthier lifestyles. It makes an impact with Academy members and throughout the profession with its scholarships, awards, research grants, fellowships, public education programs and disaster relief efforts. Through philanthropy, the Foundation empowers current and future food and nutrition practitioners to optimize global health. Visit the Foundation at www.eatrightFOUNDATION.org