3. Limit the "Terrible Two"—HFCS and Trans Fats
Once your baby is ready for table foods (at about 6 months), watch for corn syrup (or high-fructose corn syrup) and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils (a source of unhealthy trans fats)—a duo of factory-made ingredients found in many processed snack foods that provide empty calories. Foods that depend on these for flavor and texture teach children to prefer sweeter, fattier fare, putting them on the road to being overweight. Make it a habit to check the label before you buy, and avoid foods that have the "terrible two"—instead, look for foods labeled "saturated-fat free" or "contains no trans-fats", or give your little one healthier snacks like fresh fruit and vegetables.
4. Opt for Real Fruit
Fruit juice provides vitamins and energy, but too much can displace more nutritious foods, such as fresh fruit and milk, in a child's diet. Limit infants 6 to 12 months old to no more than 4 ounces of juice per day, and 1- to 4-year-olds to no more than 6 ounces per day. Look for labels that say "100-percent fruit juice," and avoid juice "drinks," "cocktails" and "punches," which contain lots of sugar but relatively little real fruit juice. Also steer clear of beverages that contain artificial sweeteners, colors and/or flavors.
Even 100-percent fruit juice tends to be very sweet, so it's a good idea to mix your tot's juice with a bit of water. A good rule of thumb is to offer him plain water to quench thirst and for a sweet treat, offer diced fruit instead.
5. Choose Good Fats
Babies need fat—it's the most nutrient-rich food, providing the most calories in the smallest volume. Optimal development of the brain and other vital organs requires infants and toddlers to eat more fat proportionally than adults do.
Focus on giving your baby healthy fats, like those found in breast milk or infant formula enriched with DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) and ARA (an omega-6 fatty acid). When he's ready for table foods, offer salmon, egg yolk and avocado. I call these "grow foods" because they promote healthy development of the brain and nervous system while also helping to strengthen the heart and immune system.
Stay away from packaged "low-fat" foods. Fat is a potent flavor-booster, so when it's taken out, manufacturers often add more sugar or sodium to make up for the lack of taste. Save the skim milk for later: Babies need whole milk for a full year after their first birthday. (Never give cow's milk to an infant under 12 months.) Once your toddler turns 2, you can introduce reduced-fat milk, or low-fat milk for children with a family history of obesity.