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

Following are the next four 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.

3. Proteins are "grow foods." Like the structural steel of buildings and the metal meshwork in concrete, proteins provide structural elements to every cell in the body. Proteins are responsible for growth, repair, and replacement of tissue. They are the only nutritional element that can duplicate itself. Tissues grow by piling millions of proteins on top of each other until each organ has reached full growth, after which they replace one another when worn out or injured.

While proteins are necessary grow foods, during the first year, an infant's total protein needs can be met with breast milk or formula so parents seldom need to worry that their baby isn't eating enough protein. Even during the second year, when toddlers typically become picky eaters, it's hard not to get enough protein. During the first two years an infant needs about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. The total daily protein needs of a twenty-pound toddler could be met by any of the following: a cup of yogurt and a glass of milk; a peanut butter sandwich on whole-grain bread and a glass of milk; two servings of whole-grain cereal and a cup of yogurt; two scrambled eggs with cheese; or a fish sandwich. As you can see for most children, getting enough protein is not a worry. Foods that pack in the most protein are:

seafood: especially salmon

dairy products: cottage cheese, yogurt, cheeses, milk

legumes: soybeans, tofu, dried peas, chickpeas, dried beans, lentils

meat and poultry


nut butters

whole grains: wheat, rye, oats, rice, corn, barley, millet Perk Up The Proteins

4. Shape Young Tastes

It makes sense that infants who enter childhood with a sweet, fatty, or salty taste in their mouth are likely to continue with these cravings throughout childhood and into adulthood. Infancy is the only time in your child's life when you can curb the candy. Junk foods shared by fellow toddlers, sugary birthday parties, and even chocolaty trips to grandmother's house are normal nutritional insults awaiting your home-fed toddler. But here's a theory, if young taste buds and developing intestines were only exposed to healthy foods during the first three years, the child might refuse junk food later. Makes sense?

Here is an experiment you can try with your infant or under three child. For the first three years give your children only healthy foods. Keep out of the diet added salt, table sugar, and unhealthy fats. What happens when your child goes out into the sugar-coated world of birthday parties and candy giving? Of course it is natural for a child to have sticky fingers and icing on the face, but hopefully they will not overdose. That's the difference. Halfway through the mound of icing or chocolate delight, your child should slow their partaking to a stop and convey the "I don't feel good" signs of yucky tummy. Your child will learn to scrape off the frosting and just eat the cake. Even as young as three years, children can make the food connection: "I eat good food -- I feel good; I eat bad food -- I feel bad." Health-food-primed babies seldom overindulge, and that's the best you can hope for in raising a healthy body -- a child and later an adult who avoids excesses.

Here's how to shape your baby's tastes in the right direction:

* Avoid foods with added artificial sweeteners and lots of sugar and corn syrup.

* Avoid foods that contain hydrogenated oils.

* Serve more fresh foods and fewer canned and packaged foods.

* Serve whole grains (e.g., whole wheat instead of white bread).

* Avoid foods with colorings and additives.

Here's another little tidbit of advice:

Go Fishing!

Seafood, especially salmon and albacore tuna, is a rich source of protein and brain-building omega 3's. Unfortunately, most American infants and children do not get enough seafood into their diets. To lessen the risk of mercury contamination from seafood, eat wild fish, such as Alaskan salmon and Alaskan halibut. (Top fish for concerns about mercury contamination are shark, king mackerel, swordfish, and tilefish.)

To shape young tastes toward seafood, at around one year of age gradually introduce tiny bits of salmon and tuna, perhaps camouflaged in a tuna or salmon salad or in pasta and sauce or in sandwiches. Helping your child enjoy fish is good preventive medicine. Studies show that the populations that consume the most seafood have the lowest risks of nearly all the most serious diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and arthritis. And, don't forget those growing brains. Next to mother's milk, seafood is a top brain food.

5. Fill Up With Fiber

Fiber, the indigestible portion of starches and fruits, is a natural laxative, helping remove food waste products from the intestines. Crunchy and chewy foods, such as whole grains and legumes, are the best examples. Fibers function as intestinal sponges and brooms. As sponges, fibers absorb water and unneeded fats from other foods, adding bulk to the stool, slowing the absorption of food, and giving the body a long feeling of fullness. Other fibers sweep the waste products downstream to be more easily eliminated. In adults, adequate fiber diets help prevent many intestinal disorders and may even lower the risk of colon cancer. In children, the main role of fiber is to soften the stools, speed the transit time of waste products through the intestines, and ultimately prevent constipation -- a condition common in toddlers. For fibers to do their intestinal clearing job, a child must drink lots of fluid. The best sources of fiber are vegetables (such as potatoes) with skins, whole grains, whole wheat bread, apples (with the skins), prunes, pears, apricots, beans, brown rice, whole-grain pasta, oatmeal, beets, eggplant, squash, and legumes. As a good fiber source for the whole family would be to sprinkle flaxseed meal (bran-like flakes) on a more tasty cereal. Whole is the key to fiber. Peeling fruits and vegetables and refining grains remove much of the fiber -- another reason for leaving foods the way they are grown or picked.

Fiber and Carbs -- Partners in Health

Here's a valuable nutrition tip for parents to remember: A good carb is a fiber-filled carb; a bad carb is a fiberless carb. High-fiber foods that also contain carbohydrates and sugars are better for your child's behavior than high-sugar, low-fiber foods. Fiber mixes the food into a gel and slows the absorption of the sugar from the intestines. This steadies the blood-sugar level and lessens the consequent ups and downs of behavior. Many cookies and packaged goods are high in sugar yet low in fiber, a combination that does not favor pleasant behavior.

6. Value Your Vitamins

In addition to the big three -- proteins, fats, and carbohydrates -- vitamins are a valuable ingredient in your child's diet. Unlike the big nutrients, these micronutrients do not directly supply energy to your baby's body, but they help the food your baby eats work better, and all the body systems work better. As the name implies, they vitalize the body. We cannot function without these life-sustaining helpers. Our bodies need thirteen vitamins: A, C, D, E, K, and the eight members of the B team -- Thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, biotin, folacin, B-6 and B-12.

Go for variety. Vitamin-conscious parents, relax. No matter how picky your eater is, it is unlikely you child suffers from any vitamin deficiency. Many foods contain such a variety of vitamins that even picky eaters are bound to pick up enough vitamins over a short period of time. Giving your child a variety of foods ensures enough vitamins.

Vitamin storage. Some vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are stored in the body fat, so if your child goes on a periodic veggie strike, he will survive on last month's vitamins. Other vitamins (C and the B team) are not stored in the body very long and need frequent boosts.

Fragile vitamins. Some vitamins, especially C, are weakened or destroyed by processes such as boiling. Steaming and microwaving preserve the most vitamins in cooked food. Fresh is best, followed by frozen; canned foods have the lowest vitamin count.

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

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Sally Michener

Street Talk

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