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
Brittany Petrick, L.Ac, MSOM, BSN
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