This is all about toddler nutrition from an Oriental Medicine point of view! Although similar to Baby Nutrition, there are some differences and this article is geared toward the 1 to 3 year old. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like clarification or more information in any area. I look forward to hearing from you!
How are children different from adults?
Why is nutrition so important to children?
What nourishes the Spleen?
Before we get to specific foods, here are some general rules:
What foods should I feed my child?
Although by now your child has been eating a variety of foods, still make sure you are keeping an eye out for any signs of food intolerance or reaction. Some symptoms are: mood changes, sleep disturbance, excess gas or bloating, increased spit up or vomiting, diarrhea, redness around the mouth and/or anus, body rash or hives, and increased mucous such as nasal discharge or congestion.
Here are foods that you want to be sure to include in your toddler’s diet. These foods rebuild and restore the function of the Spleen/ digestive system. Do not give up if your toddler doesn’t like the food the first time you offer it, or even the next five times after that! It can take more than ten times of offering a food for them to start enjoying it. The key is to be consistent and persistent. They will not starve themselves and if you withhold the processed or damp producing foods that may have become their favorite, before long their taste buds will adapt to their new diet.
* Be sure to soak the grains overnight in water to break them down and increase their digestibility. Cook them longer in at least twice the amount of water to create a porridge or congee. You can add in nourishing vegetables and warming spices (fennel, black pepper, ginger, cardamom, and/or cinnamon).
See Sally Fallon’s article on why and how to best prepare your grains at http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/be-kind-to-your-grains-and-your-grains-will-be-kind-to-you/ (Fallon, 2014).
It is important to have every meal and snack balanced. This means eating a variety of food and always incorporating protein, fat, and unprocessed carbohydrates (fruit, vegetable, and/or properly prepared whole grains) at every meal and snack. This will keep blood sugars stable, provide a full range of vitamins and minerals, and allow for maximal absorbability of those nutrients.
Some recipe ideas:
cooked apple, fig, and red cabbage together and blend into a sauce. This protects the digestive tract, treats and prevents constipation, and your baby will love it.
Cooked sweet potato, cauliflower, and chicken broth with a pinch of Himalayan salt makes for a very nutritious meal with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals and prevents blood sugar spikes.
Adding some warming digestive herbs and spices, such as ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom can help the digestibility of foods and balance our “cold natured” food.
Adding fats to their meals, such as butter, coconut, and avocado oil is extremely important as it will keep them satisfied, nourish their brain, and keep their digestive track protected.
Oats slowly cooked in extra water with pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Crock pot works great!
Rice congee with sweet potatoes, zucchini, beets, and onion
Whenever you are making something, make a large batch and freeze the extra into cubes for easy meals when you are busy!
When your child is sick, the best thing he or she can consume is breast milk. A great supplement to this is bone broth with a pinch of Himalayan salt and is a much better electrolyte replacement than pedialyte.
Foods to avoid until around 12-24 months
Despite conventional wisdom, it is not necessary for toddlers to continue to drink milk after weaned off breast milk to get adequate calcium. Many other foods provide sufficient calcium, such as:
If you had delayed cord clamping during the delivery of your baby, your baby will have enough iron stored until they are 6-10 months, depending on the individual scenario (Buckley, 2009). Around 9 months is when you want to make sure your baby is getting enough iron. Children that have a higher risk of low iron include: born premature, born at a low birth weight, and babies whose mother had gestational diabetes or poor nutritional status during pregnancy. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Iron for both males and females from 0-6 months old is 0.27mg/day, for age 7-12 months 11mg/day, and for children 1-3 years old 7mg/day (CDC, 1998). Foods that are iron rich:
NOTE: Cereal is NOT a good source of iron. Most is added synthetically and only about 4% is absorbed (Famons, 1989). Furthermore, eating processed or refined foods actually pulls nutrients from your baby’s body in order to digest and break down the food.
Signs your baby is iron deficient include: slow weight gain, no appetite, pale skin, and low activity level but high irritability
Combining Vitamin C with iron rich foods helps increase absorbability. Foods high in Vitamin C include:
Another reminder that every child is different and has a different constitution and predisposition to certain imbalances. Although these are general guidelines for your little one’s diet, each child may need to eat or omit certain foods based on their pattern of disharmony. For example, if your child has a lot of “dampness”, which could be in the form of frequent coughs, diarrhea, nasal congestion, or ear infections, then it will be extremely important to avoid dairy and bananas. If your child has a lot of “internal heat”, as evidenced by red cheeks, sweaty, irritable, or restless, then your child should avoid too much red meat, spices such as cinnamon and ginger, and eating too frequently or right before bed. Your child can be evaluated by an Oriental Medicine practitioner to find their imbalance and get treatment, herbs, and dietary advice that is more specific to their constitution and pattern.
Buckley, S. J. (2009). Gentle birth, gentle mothering: the wisdom and science of gentle choices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts.
CDC. (1998). Recommendations to Prevent and Control Iron Deficiency in the United States . Retrieved February 10, 2017, from https://wonder.cdc.gov/wonder/prevguid/m0051880/m0051880.asp#Table_2
Fallon, S. (2014, June 18). Be Kind to Your Grains...And Your Grains Will Be Kind To You. Retrieved February 8, 2017, from http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/be-kind-to-your-grains-and-your-grains-will-be-kind-to-you/
Flaws, B. (1999). Keeping your child healthy with Chinese medicine: a parent's guide to the care and prevention of common childhood diseases. Kuala Lumpur: Eastern Dragon Press.
Fomon, S. J., Ziegler, E. E., Rogers, R. R., Nelson, S. E., Edwards, B. B., Guy, D. G., . . .
Janghorbani, M. (1989). Iron Absorption from Infant Foods. Pediatric Research, 26(3), 250-254. doi:10.1203/00006450-198909000-00019
Scott, J., & Barlow, T. (1999). Acupuncture in the treatment of children. Seattle, WA: Eastland Press.
USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory | USDA Food Composition Databases (2016). Retrieved February 10, 2017, from https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/
Vitamin C: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (2015, February 02). Retrieved February 8, 2017, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002404.htm
Do you want to know yourself better and find out what your imbalance is so that you can take practical, easy steps to balance yourself? Take this free quiz to find out and at the end you will get a diagnosis along with food and lifestyle suggestions so that you can start on the road to harmony right now!
Weight loss. What a loaded word. It comes with so many pre-conceived ideas, emotions, and maybe a little hope of a quick fix. Quick fix to what though? What do you think you will find on the other side of the goal line where you are your “perfect” weight? Usually people say happiness but I am here to tell you that the feeling you are searching for, occurs when you are in a state of balance and harmony. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), you will lose the unneeded pounds when you find your own constitutional imbalances, the “deficiencies and excesses” that have developed over time and rectify them. I will be giving you some suggestions on how to you can accomplish this.
Weight gain is only a symptom of an underlying pattern imbalance and TCM takes that along with other symptoms you might be experiencing (such as constipation, poor sleep, fatigue, etc.) and formulates a Chinese pattern diagnosis. This pattern is treated, not the symptoms. This equates to the root of the problem being treated and when the right TCM diagnosis is identified and treated, you will see all your symptoms disappearing that seemed so unrelated to the Western eye. What this means in terms of weight loss is that once we recognize the underlying pattern that is causing an individual’s imbalance, we can then use a combination treatment approach of acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and specific food suggestions for that TCM pattern to create harmony in the body. You see, there is no “one size fits all” in TCM. The foods that cause one person to gain weight can be medicine in another.
I am not promising a quick fix. I am not even promising it will be easy. It takes work and self-reflection to get to where we want to be in life. What I am promising is that you will feel really good. With consistency, a little will power, and some self-love, you can achieve that feeling of well-being. That is what is going to bring you happiness in the end and isn’t that why most people say they want to lose weight in the first place? Well-being comes through health: physical, emotional, social, and spiritual. It is all connected.
A feel a few rules need to be laid down here for the foundation to be strong. First, do not compare yourself to another human! Health comes in many different sizes and skinny does not equal healthy. Which brings me to the second rule: your goal should be health not some number! Isn’t the point to have a high-quality life where you feel good? You are not going to be feeling good calorie counting while running on a treadmill and drinking diet pop. Final rule is you need a shift in perspective. This could mean different things for different people, but for most it can be as simple as changing your goal from weight loss to health gain. For others, it can mean adding in a gratitude practice every day, sitting in silence for five minutes, or finally taking that class you have always wanted to take. We need inspiration in life so find yours.
Although specific food suggestions will vary depending on your individual TCM pattern diagnosis, I will give some TCM guidance that will be beneficial to all. It is extremely important that our digestion process is functioning very well. In TCM, this is the “Spleen” organ that we are talking about. The TCM Spleen can be thought of as a combination of the pancreas, stomach, duodenum, and small intestine in Western medicine. It is in charge of transformation and transportation. In other words, it breaks down the food we eat into Qi, blood, and nutrients and then gets these by-products to where they need to go. So, if this function is deficient, we won’t be breaking our food down well enough, absorbing sufficiently, or transporting adequately. To keep the Spleen working optimally or to restore its function, we need to eat whole foods that are cooked and not too difficult to digest. This means no raw or cold foods and drinks, even ice water. Cold taxes the digestive system. Think of throwing ice on a fire when you are trying to cook with it.
The next TCM guide post is too eat at regular times every day. The body likes routine and does best when you eat at the same times. It is best to eat three regular meals with maybe an afternoon snack and do not “graze” in between meals. The body needs rest time in between food to fully digest the food and be able to perform all its other functions. It is also advised that we do not eat food from 7pm to 7am (this is not advisable for every individual, for example babies and adults with blood sugar regulation issues). Digestive function is very low at night and eating at night can lead to “food accumulation and dampness” in TCM terms. This loosely translates to mucous and phlegm production in Western terms and can lead to symptoms such as bloating, fatigue, insomnia, cloudy mind, bowel irregularity and more.
As far as timing, Chinese Medicine is very in tune with nature, seasons, and the cycles of Earth, so advice varies by season. They recommend to eat your largest meal when the sun is highest, so this means lunch would be your largest meal, breakfast the second largest, and supper the lightest meal of the day. The seasons also affect how much sleep we need, which a lot more people can relate to. For optimal health, it is best to rise with the sun and sleep when the sun sets. Although in our modern culture, this is close to impossible, we should get more sleep in the winter and less in the summer.
Finally, get outside! In order to make good quality Qi, we first need to start with good quality food and good quality air. I am not telling you to go run five miles. Start with where you are at and if that is walking around your block once a day then that is great! The point is to be outside breathing some fresh air while moving your body. This gives us a chance to connect with nature too. We do not need to be in a forest to notice a tree. “Connecting” can just be noticing. Be kind to yourself on this wonderful Earth journey. Treat yourself and talk to yourself like you would a baby. Health on the outside starts with health on the inside.
If you would like to learn more about what your constitutional type is so you can pick the right foods for you and avoid the foods that are causing more imbalance, feel free to come to my free class on March 27th at from 12-1pm at Natural Grocers in Flagstaff. Or you can stop by our booth at the free event: “The East Side Show: The Other Art Walk” that happens the 2nd Saturday every month at 12pm for a free auricular style acupuncture treatment to get started on your way to health. So much support is available to you in this community; don’t do it alone!
Brittany Petrick, L.Ac, MSOM, BSN
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