The Best Roasted Vegetables Ever
Summer Break

Cooking for Hugo: Guidelines for Feeding After the First Year


A while back, I mentioned that at Hugo's one-year check-up, his doctor had given me a little pamphlet on feeding children after the first year was over. So many of you (so many!) expressed an interest in what that pamphlet said that I thought I'd do a little post on it.

(Full disclosure: the pamphlet comes from Aptamil, the formula company. But this is not a sponsored post. Nor is it a post about the glory of formula. It's just a post about feeding your baby. Okay? Okay!)

So the pamphlet is written by a Professor Doktor Heino Skopnik, who is the head of this pediatric teaching hospital), and an Aptamil "expert" named Gabriele Voss - from what I can tell, she's the one who interjects the fun stuff in between Prof. Dr. Skopnik's rules. There are a lot of photographs of adorable blond children (seriously! not a single brown-haired one in the bunch) and graphics of pyramids.

It starts with the importance of getting enough to drink. One-year olds need about 600-700 milliliters of liquid per day (that's 20-23 ounces). The best thing to give them is tap water or flat mineral water with low sodium. If your child likes sparkling water, though, that's okay, too. Unsweetened herbal teas are also good (fruit and rooibos teas are included here). The pamphlet also says that you can give your kid fruit juice as long as it's mixed with water (at least 1 to 2 ratio). Avoid all soda, green, white and black teas, energy drinks and coffee.

(The expert chimes in! You must model good drinking behavior to your child and drink a lot of water yourself. Only give your kid beverages in cups (not bottles) and fill them only halfway. Get your child to drink more by using fun straws and colorful cups.)

It continues with fruits and vegetables: serve your child 5 small portions (about the size of your child's hand) of fruits and vegetables per day. Try to vary the produce and use fresh whenever possible (frozen is also okay) and divvy it up as follows: 3 vegetable portions and 2 fruit portions. At least half of the daily vegetables should be cooked (steaming is best), but raw food is good, too.

Legumes are not easily digested by small children, says the pamphlet, so go easy when introducing them. If your child digests them well, then at least one meal a week should feature legumes as the main course in the form of a thick soup, for example.

(Here the expert says to avoid fruit that can be inhaled, like blueberries, redcurrants, grapes and raisins - but I say take this with a grain of salt. Hugo, for one, is obsessed with blueberries and redcurrants and gums them just fine. She also says to carve fruits and vegetables into the shape of a car or a ship - I say (lovingly!) that she must be insane and clearly has never been the working mother of a small child with no time to spare before dinnertime. I think? She adds that if you do use frozen vegetables, make sure they are free of cream, flour or spices.)

On to grains and carbohydrates: Give your child a varied assortment of wholegrain breads. Give them oats, like plain instant oats mixed with fruit and milk or yogurt to produce a pretty quick breakfast. Potatoes are the ideal accompaniment to vegetables, says the pamphlet. Boiled, baked or mashed are good. Avoid French fries and potato chips. Noodles and rice, especially brown rice, are all good meal filler-outers. Try millet, bulgur, couscous, and spelt as well.

(The expert! says that at least half of the child's daily carbs should be wholegrain.)

Okay, onto the big, important stuff: dairy. Your one-year old should be getting between 300 and 330 milliliters of milk and milk products per day (that's 10 to 11 ounces). Scientists have shown that dividing this among 3 meals per day is best for calcium absorption. Do not give them more or less than this amount: consuming too much protein at this age can lead to being at risk for obesity later. The pamphlet says that you can give your child whole or reduced-fat milk depending on what other dairy you feed your child. If they drink whole milk, then give them reduced fat yogurt or cheese. If you give your child reduced-fat milk, then give them full-fat yogurt and cheese. We're not talking skim: In Germany, milk only exists in two forms: full fat and 1.5%, so I would assume that in the US, you shouldn't go lower than 2% milk. 15 grams of hard cheese (1/2 ounce) or 30 grams of soft cheese (1 ounce) are enough for a daily portion. Don't give your child raw-milk cheese.

(Now it's time for me to interject: Hugo often goes over that amount of dairy per day. He drinks about 330 ml of milk per day and often will have a bowl of yogurt, too - not every day, but often enough. His doctor says his weight is ideal, so I'm not too fussed for now. Also, this pamphlet was the first I'd heard of the dairy fat concerns - I give Hugo full-fat milk and yogurt and cheese.)

Fats and oils: 1.5 to 2 tablespoons per day of oil and butter are enough for your child.

It's time to talk meat, fish and eggs: All hugely important parts of your child's diet, providing iron, zinc, B vitamins and valuable protein. Red meat, like beef and lamb, is especially important for small children because of its high iron content. Pork is high in vitamin B, poultry has lots of zinc. Fish is high in iodine and vitamin D. So give your kid 2 to 3 meals a week that feature meat (a portion is about the size of your child's hand). Choose lean cuts of meat and poultry. Make sure it's tender and chewable. Give your child 1 to 2 meals featuring fish per week. 1 to 2 eggs per week round out your child's protein needs. If your kid is a vegetarian, you can up the egg consumption.

Then the pamphlet moves on to covering your behavior during your child's meals. Be a good role model by eating a varied diet with pleasure. Avoid stress at the dinner table and institute rituals. Stay relaxed and patient - understand that it might take your kid some time to adjust to each new food on his or her plate. Praise your child when he or she does a good job at the table. Don't pressure your kid and let him or her eat at their own pace. That's how they learn to understand if they're still hungry or ready to stop.

Let's recap:

Meat: maximum 3 x per week
Fish: 1-2 x per week
Eggs: 1-2 per week
Dairy: 300-300 ml milk and diary per day, divided into 3 portions
Water: 600 to 700 ml per day
Fruit: 2 x daily
Veg: 3 x daily
Legumes: 1 x per week

I hope this was helpful! I have to say that I'm really liking this phase of feeding Hugo. It's so much fun to see him try new things and really dig into stuff he likes. Also: We spent this past weekend with my friends from New York and their almost-three-year old, who is going through a very age-appropriate food-refusal stage. While Hugo dug into pasta with sardines, tuna and broccoli, I told myself to enjoy every minute. Who knows when the time will come that he'll refuse it all and demand ice cream for dinner. Let's cross that bridge when we get there!

Update: I just wanted to clarify once again - these are all just guidelines. They are not hard and fast rules and we certainly don't follow them strictly. But I was grateful to have a sense of what we should be aiming for, especially with regards to water intake and milk quantity per day. (My pediatrician is more of a, uh, big picture guy and doesn't give many specifics on anything.) Every culture, every family, is different and we are all doing our best to nourish our children. So again: These are not meant to stress anyone out. I posted them simply because so many people asked to see what was in the pamphlet, not because I think they are the gospel. xo