Healthy Eating After the First Year

Preventing obesity

Sometimes lifelong weight problems begin as early as the toddler years. As your baby enters his second year, you can take steps now to prevent obesity in the future and avoid the serious health problems that go with it. The following are recommendations from the American Academy of Family Physicians:

Provide a nutritious breakfast every day.

  • Eating breakfast may reduce snacking and fat intake during the rest of the day.
  • Offer fruits first, then whole grains.
  • Don't buy cereals that have added sugar (it's okay to add fruit or a little sugar to cereal).

Eat fewer foods that are high in fat and calories.

  • Give overweight and obese children low-fat milk after age 1 and nonfat milk
    after age 2.
  • Foods with high water content, such as soups, fruits and vegetables, tend to have fewer calories per unit and can make children feel satisfied without adding unnecessary calories and fat to the diet.
  • Drink less 100 percent fruit juice. While fruit juice contains many important nutrients, it is also high in calories.

Plan healthy snacks and meals.

  • Make fruit available for snacking (or raw mixed nuts once your child reaches 4 years of age and the choking risk has passed).
  • Eat meals as a family, and don't eat while watching television. To make mealtimes fun, have a collection of conversation-starting questions on hand.

Minimize sugar-sweetened beverages.

  • Drinking too many sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda or juice drinks, can contribute to weight gain.
  • Water is the most important nutrient. Pack water instead of juice boxes for lunches, sports or travel.

(Note also that in 2011 the AAP began advising against the use of "sports drinks" as well, saying that they contain carbohydrates and sugar as well as electrolytes and can contribute to dental cavities, weight gain and obesity.)

Limit meals away from home.

  • The more meals you eat at home, the more fruits and vegetables (and the less soda) you will consume. Eating out at fast-food restaurants has been linked to obesity in children.
  • Plan ahead. Prepare meals over the weekend that can be reheated during the week when you have less time.
  • Learn how to prepare your favorite foods with more healthful ingredients.
  • Cook with your children and have them help clean up after meals.

Serve appropriate portion sizes.

  • Portion sizes are different for people of different genders and sizes. See ChooseMyPlate.gov for portion sizes adjusted for age, gender, weight, and height.

In addition to helping your children eat healthy, you can help them maintain a healthy weight by doing the following:

  • Limit screen time (combined time spent watching television, playing video games and using the computer).
  • Allow less than two hours a day for children over age 2; none for children under age 2.

Increase active time to at least 60 minutes each day.

  • Incorporate exercise into your family's daily routine by walking, taking the stairs, or finding ways to move for fun (dancing, jumping rope, playing active games).
  • Organize active play dates with friends.