Potential role of processed complementary foods in the improvement of early childhood nutrition in Latin America
Processed complementary foods have the potential to play an important role in the diets of infants and toddlers in Latin America. Both feeding frequency and nutrient density need to be considered when formulating recommendations on appropriate feeding practices and composition of processed foods. Unfortunately, empirical data are not yet available on the relationships among feeding practices, feeding frequency, energy density, energy intake, and intake from breastmilk that would permit appropriate public health recommendations to be made. Analyses of nutrient requirements and the nutrient contents of typical toddler foods show that it is virtually impossible to satisfy iron requirements without fortification unless there is a substantial intake of animal products. Zinc and calcium have also been identified as problem nutrients. The optimal characteristics of processed complementary foods include adequate energy density, appropriate micronutrient:energy ratios, suitably low renal solute load, appropriate viscosity for age, desirable sensory properties, resistance to microbial contamination, simple preparation techniques, and low cost.