A child’s growth and food preferences, is determined by their experiences with food in their early years. From the time baby has started solids, eating rituals and eating with the family becomes important as this encourages healthy eating habits for the future. It’s also important to make sure children have the right mix of nutrients for the first three years as it helps them to better resist infections and allows their growing brains and bodies to reach their full developmental potential. By the age of three, a child’s food likes and dislikes are well-formed and quite difficult to change.
Facts about Salt:
- Too much sodium during infancy may increase the risk of developing high blood pressure later in life.
- Research has also shown that a diet with more sodium during the first six months of life raises blood pressure.
- Early life exposure to sodium may also promote the development of taste preferences for salty foods.
- Research shows that infants exposed to salty starch first foods during weaning enjoy salty taste more than other babies by the age of six months. It also shows that they go on to have a greater liking for the taste of salt at four years of age.
The best way to lower infants’ intake of sodium is to look at foods that contribute the most sodium: cheese, breakfast cereal, and bread which can vary widely in sodium content, so parents have an option to choose lower sodium brands. The sodium content of cheddar cheese for example, can range from 300 to 800mg per 100g. More processed varieties of cheese can even have up to 1,500mg per 100g.
Nutrition for Sleep
Small amounts of protein, between 25 to 50mg, should be introduced for lunch and breakfast from around 10 months of age, as protein helps stabilise blood sugar levels that encourage better sleep. Children under 3 can regulate their energy intake themselves really well which means they won’t starve themselves and there’s no need to fill them up on something for the sake of feeding them something. They eat only to fill a physiological need, for calories, which is intuitive. Filling up on milk which they know is comforting, or low quality processed foods, will satisfy their appetite for a while but will reduce their motivation to try new things. Filling up on milk also produces gaps in the diet that can impact on a child’s behaviours, general health and sleep.