Good nutrition is of major importance to a child’s growth and development during the first 2 years of life. Dietary needs of infants (6-12 months) and toddlers (12 months to 2 years) are different from those of older children.
PREPREGNANCY, PREGNANCY, and BREASTFEEDING. Foods mothers eat before and during pregnancy are important to the health of her child. The foods mothers eat during breastfeeding directly impact their milk quality.
INFANCY (6-12 months). The period of adding solid food is 6-12 months and is ‘transitional feeding’. Supplementation with adult table food is not ideal. Best foods are energy-dense, nutrient rich foods with low sugar content. Infants need healthy fatty acids, minerals, vitamin A, vitamin B’s, iodine, iron, and zinc. Health is altered by deficiencies, which have long-lasting negative effects.
Infants should have a variety of fruits, vegetables, cereals, and meats. Fats are important in infancy to supply adequate energy and essential fatty acids for brain development. However, most fruits, vegetables, and grains are low in fats. Many U.S. infants don’t eat fruits or vegetables daily. Increased fruit and vegetable use in childhood has been shown to correlate with lower incidence in adulthood of high cholesterol, hypertension, lower stroke risk, and lower risk of some cancers.
TODDLER (12 months to 24 months). Feeding during the second year of life is called ‘complementary feeding’. One in four toddlers in the U.S. have inadequate fat intake, with low vitamin and mineral intake, and low fat-soluble vitamin** absorption. Toddlers need more fiber and nutrients than infants and, are growing at a faster rate. However, fiber is often reduced in toddler diets. Toddlers, as they eat more table food, tend to consume excess sodium. Only 5% of toddlers eat recommended amounts of potassium. Sodium and potassium compete for utilization and should be kept in balance.
AVOCADOES. Avocado use is promoted for mothers before conception and during pregnancy and lactation, and for the child in the first 2 years of life. Fruits often used for infants and toddlers are apples, bananas, and grapes. However, these are not energy-dense and are high in sugar. Avocadoes are better at providing potassium, folate, alpha-tocopherol, vitamin K, and unsaturated fatty acids.
Avocadoes are the only fruits*** which meet expert recommendations that they be nutrient-dense, colorful, naturally soft, and low in sugar. The low sugar content of avocadoes helps to avoid teaching children to prefer sweet foods at an early age. Avocadoes contain 3.5 gm. unsaturated fat per ounce of serving, mainly unsaturated oleic acid. Oleic acid is important for growth and development of the brain and nervous system. Avocadoes contain some of the highest levels of lutein and fats found in fruits and vegetables. Avocadoes provide 2 gm. soluble and insoluble fiber in a 30 ounce serving. That is more than 30 other fruits and vegetables tested. Soluble fibers are a usable energy source.
Iron content is low in usual complementary foods, as well as in avocadoes and Mother’s milk. Avocadoes contain folate, vitamin C, riboflavin, and vitamin B-6, which improve iron absorption and red blood cell formation. Avocadoes are salt-free and high in potassium and are beneficial for toddlers for sodium/potassium balance. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant with multiple benefits, and is abundant in raw avocadoes. Glutathione helps prevent future disease by fighting oxidation.
CONCLUSION: “Soft, neutral-flavored, and nutrient-dense avocado-which does not need to be cooked and easily be stored-appears to be one of the most ideal complementary and transitional foods available.”
NOTES: *Mothers are advised to take folic acid (folate) before and during pregnancy.
**Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K.
***Fruits were defined by the U.S. Supreme Court as being foods which are usually eaten out of the hand.
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Rainbow Grocery sells the following products: Avocadoes, glutathione, iron, lutein, mixed carotenoids, potassium, riboflavin, vitamins A, B-6, D, E, and K, folate, and zeaxanthin.