Now there is a new study that reveals exactly what kids under age 2 are eating. Samantha Heller, a nutritionist from the New York University Medical Center, discussed the study's findings on The Early Show.
The study, called Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study, was sponsored by Gerber Products Company. It was the first large-scale, scientific look at the eating habits of kids under 2. Says Heller, "What they found when they looked at 3,000 children is they're getting the nutrients they need to grow and develop properly. That's the good news – getting vitamins, minerals, proteins, all the things they need to develop the motor skills, cognitive function."
But there is bad news, too, cautions Heller: "We're getting our kids to eat unhealthy foods very early so that we're setting them up for a lifetime of being overweight or obese, heart disease or diabetes and starting it at the young age of between 4 and 24 months."
The study found that parents were giving children as young as 7 months soda, French fries, pizza, hot dogs, sausages and, adds Heller, "this is before they're supposed to have solid foods. They're setting this child's taste preferences early so it's hard to switch to healthy foods."
A lot of parents, too, may start their kids off on this road and as the kids get older and more vocal they give them more junk food.
It is far better to start them off on fruits and vegetables and whole grains when they're young, and to avoid introducing juice to their diets, since juice is very high in sugar and calories. Explains Heller, "If we're giving our kids juice before six months, they may be getting more calories than they need.
"Children are pretty good at self-regulating at how much they eat and what they eat," continues. "First, stick with breast milk. That, they can have. Juice can be a little too high in calories a little too early."
Offer healthy choices. Don't count calories. Children will self-select and choose a healthy diet if it's offered. Keep the junk food away.