Ten Tips For Becoming Your Family's Nutritionist - Article One
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Ten Tips for Becoming Your Family\'s Nutritionist  -  Article One

Following are the first Six tips.

You as parents have a nutritional window of opportunity in your child's first few years to shape their tastes into lifelong healthy eating habits. Here are the first five of ten tips that will give your infant a smart nutritional start.

1. Feed Your Baby Smart Fats

Your baby needs a "right fat" diet, not a low-fat diet. Fats have always seemed to get a bad rep and so has "cholesterol" in adult nutrition. Unfortunately, the low-fat, no-cholesterol craze has been carried over into infant feeding. Your baby needs fats -- lots of them. Human milk, our nutritional standard, contains 40-50 percent of its calories as fats -- would you believe? -- is also rich in cholesterol. An infant's balanced diet should contain at least 40 percent of its calories in the form of fats, and for toddlers 30 to 40 percent. Babies need fats to grow well. Here are the nutritional reasons that a baby needs enough of the right fats:

* Fats are the body's largest storage batteries for energy. Each gram of fat provides nine calories, more than twice that of carbohydrates and proteins.

* Growing brains need smart fats. During the first years of life the brain grows faster than at any other time. It uses 60 percent of the total energy consumed by the infant, and the brain itself is 60 percent fat. Also, fats provide the major components of the brain cell membranes and the myelin sheath that insulates the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, enabling nerve impulses to travel more efficiently throughout baby's growing body.

* Fats are the basic components of important hormones and are valuable parts of cell membranes, especially red blood cells.

* Fats act like ferry boats for the absorption and transport of vitamins A, D, E, and K.

* Fats make food taste good. Babies enjoy the "mouth feel" of fat in food.

* Fats are the most nutrient-rich food, packing in the most calories in the smallest volume. This nutritional perk is important for toddlers since they are by nature picky eaters and consume small amounts at each feeding.

As you can see, fats do good things for baby, as long as we provide this little brain and body with the right kinds of fats, in the right proportions. In choosing the healthiest fats, consider the source.

Best Fats For Baby

Not only should infants get 40 to 50 percent of their calories from fats, they should eat the right variety of fats. In addition to breast milk, the best fats for babies (and also for children and adults) come from marine and vegetable sources. Ranked in order of nutritional content they are:

Seafood (especially salmon)

Flax oil


Vegetable oils

Nut butters (because of possible allergies, delay peanut butter until after two years)

The top three sources of fats (breast milk, seafood, and flax oil) are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for optimal brain growth. In addition to these smart fats, babies also need a variety of other fats in their diets.

Saturated Fats for Babies

These fats come primarily from animal sources such as meat, eggs, and dairy products. Parents should not keep their infant's diets thin in saturated fats during the first two years of baby's life (remember that human milk fat is 44 percent saturated fat). Now older children, adolescents, and adults should avoid foods high in saturated fats because they contribute to an increased risk of adult heart disease, presumably because sat fats raise cholesterol. The moral of this fat story is feed baby a diet rich in saturated fats but gradually lower the amount of sat fats (meat, eggs, and full-fat dairy products) as your child gets older. Foods that have predominantly saturated fats include the following:



full-fat dairy products




cocoa butter

palm and palm kernel oils

coconut oil

Bad Fats for Babies

While it is nutritionally correct to say there's no such thing as a bad fat for babies, artificial processing of natural fats can make a good thing bad. Read labels, watching for the word "hydrogenated" -- the only bad fat. Hydrogenated fats (also called "trans fatty acids") are produced by artificially processing vegetable oils to make them like saturated fats. Used to extend the shelf life of foods and give some packaged and fast foods a fatty, oily taste, the artificially processed fats raise blood cholesterol. It is opinion that these artificially made factory fats have never been proven safe for babies, and new insights have shown they are certainly not healthy for adults either. These sinister fats are often tucked into these commercial foods:

candy bars


cookies and crackers

deep-fried fast food


French fries


some peanut butters

Look at the fine print on labels. Shun foods whose ingredient list contains the words "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated." Some healthier products display labels that say "Contains no trans fatty acids."

2. Feed Your Baby The Best Carbs

Every baby is born with a sweet tooth. But, unfortunately, sugars have been getting a lot of bad nutritional press. Every possible malady has been blamed on sugar. Babies do need sugars, lots of them. But they need the right sugars. Here's the difference between healthy sugars and unhealthy sugars.

Natural sugarholics, that's what infants and children are. Kids crave sugar because they need a lot of energy, mental and physical. Sugars are the body's main energy fuel. Each molecule of sugar is like a tiny power pack, energizing each cell to do its work. Sugars come in two forms, simple and complex (or as they are also called, short sugars and long sugars; you have probably heard them also called simple and complex carbohydrates, or sugars and starches). Each type behaves differently in the body.

Sweet Facts About Sugars

Nutritionally speaking, there is no such thing as a bad sugar. It's how it is served and what it's combined with that determines whether it's "good" or "bad." All sugars are good for babies, but some are better than others.

"Bad" Sugars

Sugars going by the names glucose, dextrose, and sucrose -- the sweet-tasting stuff that is in the white granules in the sugar bowl, candy, icings, and syrups are the least good the of sugars. Because it's cheap and sweet, this is the sugar most added to commercial foods, like catsup. A small amount of these sugars won't bother a child, but too much of these sugars can become bad. Let's take a ride with these sugars from the mouth into the bloodstream to see how they behave in the body.

These sugars are called simple, or short, sugars because they contain only one or two molecules. Because they are so small and simple, they require little or no digestion in the intestines. So as a spoonful of this sugar hits the intestines, it immediately enters the bloodstream, and here's where the roller coaster ride begins.

The high blood sugar from a rush of this refined-sugar meal triggers the release of insulin, the hormone needed to escort these sugars into the body cells. The sugar is rapidly used, causing the blood-sugar levels to plunge into a sugar low (also known as hypoglycemia or sugar blues). This low blood sugar triggers stress hormones that squeeze stored sugar from the liver, sending the blood sugar back up. The ups and downs of the blood-sugar level and the hormones scrambling to smooth the ride result in roller-coaster-like behavior in your child. To witness this sugar ride in action, watch the antics of a bunch of icing-faced kids at a birthday party. Tame them if you can. These sugars also merit the label "sweet nothings," because nearly all of the natural vitamins and minerals have been refined out. For this reason, they have been dubbed "empty calories." Avoid letting your child indulge in these sweet nothings. They do nothing for them. Enough of these ups and downs. Give your child sweet something's. (See Tip No. 5 "Fill Up With Fiber")

Better Sugars

Fructose sugars, primarily from fruits, are better. These sugars are sweet tasting and better than the syrups and frostings mentioned in bad sugars. They are called sources of quick energy "better" because they do not excite the hormone roller coaster like their sweeter relatives on the top of the birthday cake do. Blood-sugar swings and consequently behavior swings are much less dramatic with an orange than with a candy bar. Milk sugar, or lactose, also behaves better in the body because it doesn't rush into the bloodstream as fast as the refined stuff. Another credit fructose and lactose have is the company they keep. Unlike the mega doses of concentrated sugar in the granular sweets, fruit and milk sugars enter the intestines along with so many other nutrients that the release into the bloodstream is not so fast.

Best Sugars

Better known by grandmother's term "starches," complex polysaccharides, are the best sugars. They are found in pasta, legumes, potatoes, grains, seeds, and nut butters. These nutrients enter the intestines as a long line of simple sugar molecules holding hands. Through digestion they are allowed to enter the bloodstream one by one, like a time-release energy capsule. These super sugars provide slow, steady energy and give the feeling of fullness longer, without the high and low feelings of the fast-acting sugars.

Healthiest Sugars


beans and legumes

breast milk

dairy products (especially plain yogurt)

fresh fruit

pasta (whole-grain)



sweet potatoes


whole grains

The Ten Tips for Becoming your Family's Nutritionist will follow with Article two.

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Sally Michener

Street Talk

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