Healthy Foods for a Healthy Baby
What we are fed as babies will influence how we grow and develop during the early stages of our lives. Here are some foods that contain many of the vitamins and minerals a growing baby needs.
Babies have small tummies so cannot eat as much as we do, therefore it is important to choose foods well and to ensure that meals are nutritious and that they support healthy development.
Sweet potatoes contain potassium, vitamin C, fibre, and the anti-oxidant beta-carotene. The best thing about this highly nutritious variety of potato is that when mashed up it’s super easy to eat and babies love the sweet taste. My mother always kept our diets nutritious, and as a treat used to bake sweet potato chips which we adored as children. My god-daughter Nancy will happily eat her dinner if her mother mashes some sweet potato into her food.
The healthy fats contained in avocado are said to be similar to the fat found in breast milk which assists in a baby's brain development. Make sure the avocado is ripe and keep in mind the fat content makes it filling so not a lot is needed to satisfy baby.
Avocado and pear; perfect 'finger food'.
Eggs contain choline which is important for brain development. They are also a good source of protein, zinc, as well as vitamins A,D, E and B12. In the past some experts advised parents to avoid eggs in case of a potential allergy, however some now say this should only be a concern if there is history of allergies of this kind in the family.
Carrots, like sweet potato, are high in beta-carotene which the body converts to vitamin A, playing a role in growth and healthy vision. Like sweet potatoes, a deliciously sweet tasting vegetable that is easy to mash up and add to food.
Milk, cheese and yoghurt are all strong sources of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D, crucial for bone health, as well as protein. Cheese also contains riboflavin (vitamin B2) which helps convert food to energy. Yoghurt provides good bacteria which aids digestion.
A note about flavoured yoghurt for babies:
Try to avoid flavoured yoghurt as these usually contain added sugar. One well-known brand of yoghurt claims to be suitable for babies from the age of 6 months old. However, although these yoghurts do provide vitamin D and calcium, they contains over 40% more sugar than natural yoghurt; almost 6 grams of sugar in one tiny pot! (Keep in mind a teaspoon of sugar is 4g). Instead try adding some mashed up fruit or cooked apple to natural yoghurt to sweeten it naturally.
Yoghurt ain't just for eating!
These provide iron to help growth and development. Iron-fortified rice cereal is particularly recommended as there is less chance of an allergic reaction which may occur with other cereals.
Meat & Fish
Meat and fish are high in protein. The good fats in fish help support the brain, eyes and immunity. Chicken is a lean meat, high in vitamin B6 which helps to convert food to energy. Red meat is a good source of iron which is needed for brain development.
Pasta is rich in carbohydrate, a prime source of energy and is often enriched with iron, folic acid and B vitamins. Wholewheat versions contain more fibre but aren't quite as soft to eat.
"Sorry mummy, I'm cutting down on carbs ;)"
Top picks include pears which contain vitamin C, potassium, fibre as well as being gentle on the tummy, then bananas, which are full of potassium and vitamins A and C and with a sweet taste that makes them more palatable than many other fruits, and finally blueberries; high in antioxidants, good for the eyes, brain and urinary tract.
Squash is another eye-friendly veggie high in beta-carotene and vitamins A and C. Another one to mash into baby's dinner.
Beans and lentils are sources of lean protein; full of fibre to help keep things moving as well as high in iron, zinc and folate. Soak for a few hours then boil and puree to make baby-friendly.
Dark leafy greens are jam-packed full of goodnesss. Kale spinach and chard all bursting with vitamins, folate, calcium, iron, potassium and fibre. Broccoli is another vegetable of choice hosting much of the same benefits as leafy greens, particularly vitamin C.
Some of the vitamins can be lost when boiling so steam or microwave to retain the goodness. It can be a good idea to start babies on greens early on to allow them to get used to the taste. If baby isn’t keen try mixing with sweet potato, squash or carrot.
Me with my happy, healthy god-daughter Nancy who has a lot to thank her mummy for.
It can be easy to obsess about our little ones, particularly when there is so much information to tell us what we should and shouldn't be doing. I think common sense and a balanced approach is usually the best method, and if in doubt as to when to introduce certain foods then consult your doctor.
The foods listed are usually suitable by the time a baby is six months old. If you have reason for concern regarding allergies then you may wish to wait until your baby is a year old before introducing eggs, yoghurt, fish or citrus.
Glossary of vitamins and minerals mentioned and some of their functions for your baby:
B VITAMINS - Promotes energy production, supports immune & nervous system, growth, metabolism, brain function.
IRON - Important for brain development
CALCIUM - Good for strong bones.
ZINC - Supports immune function, growth and development, cognition.
POTASSIUM - Good for heart health, blood-pressure, muscle function.
FIBRE - Promotes healthy bowel movements.
BETA-CAROTENE - Body converts to vitamin A, good for vision, anti-cancer properties.
FOLIC ACID (Vitamin B9) - Supports cell development.
A - Vision, skin, nails, hair, bone growth, fights infections.
C - Helps iron absorption, immune system and cell repair.
D - Helps calcium absorption, immune system and cell growth.
E - Growth and development.
K - Assists in normal blood clotting.
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