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Infancy and Early Childhood

Requirements for calories and nutrients are higher during infancy and childhood as a result of rapid growth. As an energy source, breast milk offers significant advantages over infant formula. Breast-feeding is associated with reduced risk for obesity, allergies, hypertension, type 1 diabetes, and certain infections. It is also less costly than infant formula.

Water. Total water needs (from beverages and foods) are higher in infants and children than for adults. Children are at greater risk of dehydration than adults. Parents may underestimate these fluid needs, especially if infants and children are experiencing fever, diarrhea, or exposure to extreme temperatures (e.g., in vehicles during the summer).

Essential fats. Small amounts of essential fats are required for health. They are present in trace amounts in vegetables, fruits, and beans, and in larger amounts in some nuts (e.g., walnuts), soy products, and flax seeds. These fats play an important role in growth, particularly in the brain. Further, both saturated fats and trans fats decrease the benefit of essential fats and should be avoided as much as possible.

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