Nutrition & Exercise - Tips for Parents & Caregivers

First Year Foods and Feeding

  • Breastfeed. Breast milk is the healthiest food you can give your baby. It also reduces the risk of childhood obesity.
  • Delay solids. Babies are often ready to experiment with solid food by 4 months of age, but nutrition experts recommend waiting until 6 months.
  • Watch the mealtime signals. Back off from feeding if your baby purses his or her lips, turns away or appears to lose interest in the spoonful of cereal or strained veggies. Help a baby learn to listen to his or her body's cues. Likewise, never force your baby to finish a bottle.
  • Offer a variety of baby foods. Take advantage of all the flavors out there, especially in fruits and vegetables.

Tips for Toddlers and Preschoolers

  • Make fruits and vegetables a priority. Nutritionists recommend that toddlers eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Aim to include at least one with every meal, including snack time.
  • Keep portion sizes small. Toddlers don't require many calories, so it's important to serve age-appropriate servings. The general rule of thumb is one tablespoon of each food for each year of age.
  • Stick to a regular meal schedule. Toddlers as young as 1-year-old should eat three meals and just two snacks daily, three to four hours apart.
  • Offer a variety of foods. Offer healthy food choices. Children may need to be exposed to a new food more than once before accepting it.

A Family Affair

The best way to keep children healthy is to make a healthy lifestyle a family affair. If everyone in the family makes a decision to follow a healthier lifestyle, children will naturally do the same.

Here are some things you can do to get children and the entire family on the path to better health.

Nutrition Tips:

  • Keep fresh fruits and vegetables on-hand.
  • Remove from your household all chips, soda and candy bars. They're okay as a special treat but they should not be a regular staple in your food cabinet.
  • Avoid fried foods.
  • Make healthy meals in large quantities and freeze for a later time. This way, when you're too busy to cook, you can just defrost a healthy meal and have dinner ready in no time.
  • Always eat breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day, not just for children but for the entire family.
  • Parents and children should eat when they're hungry, not out of boredom.

Physical Activity Tips:

Making smart food choices are just one way to help your child maintain a healthy weight. Getting children into the habit of being physically active early on is also important.

  • Allow lots of time for active play and plenty of room for your baby to move around so he or she can practice rolling and crawling skills. Let toddlers walk instead of ride in strollers whenever possible. Use push and pull toys. Dance to music, play follow-the-leader and take make believe walks through the snow, in the jungle or other adventurous places.
  • Get them outside. Encourage your child to play outside. He or she can play tag, ride a tricycle or throw a ball. Plan a trip to the local park or playground. Walk the dog, work in the garden, wash the car or just take a walk. These activities help your child burn calories.
  • Be active as a family.
  • Limit the amount of time your children spend watching TV or playing on computers or video games. Children should not watch more than two hours of TV a day. Children under 2 years old should not watch TV at all.

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