Healthy eating tips for babies and toddlers
We all want the very best for our children, and good nutrition is essential to help them grow and develop to be healthy and strong.
So let’s take a look at healthy eating habits for newborns, right up to young pre-schoolers.
Babies up to 6 months of age
Newborns up to the age of 6 months, can manage on just breast milk or a baby milk formula substitute if you are not breastfeeding (they don’t need any other drinks or water). These milks will provide all of the hydration and nourishment your baby needs to grow strong and healthy, before you introduce solid foods to them at around 6 months. However recent research suggests that babies who started solids as early as 4 months had a reduced risk of allergies and asthma. Infants who started solids at 4 months also showed higher iron levels than those exclusively breastfed up to 6 months old. As these are only guidelines, always check for signs if your baby is ready to start solids.
Breast milk and formula substitutes contain proteins that are easily digested by your baby’s system and breast milk in particular helps to boost their immune system. You can continue to breastfeed for as long as you want, even when your toddler is taking solid foods.
If you decide to end breastfeeding before your baby is 12 months old, it is recommended that you continue to feed them a baby milk formula substitute for their first year.
Babies and toddlers between 6 and 12 months of age
When your baby is around 6 months of age, they have grown so much that they need more nourishment than can be provided by breast milk alone or formula substitutes. One of the nutrients that babies of this age require is iron, so it is a good idea to start offering them foods high in iron.
Ensure you start with natural, pureed foods initially, such as vegetables and fruits, then gradually include selections from the five food groups. These include iron-enriched baby cereal, as well as protein rich fish, chicken or legumes. You can move on to mashed and then minced food, then finely chopped foods and by the age of around 8 months introduce finger foods.
At around 1 year and if not a fussy eater, you can start introducing cow’s milk to your toddler. They should also be able to eat the same healthy meals as the rest of the family, but in smaller portions. Foods to avoid at this age include raw eggs, very fatty foods and those high in salt or sugar. Caution needs to be taken with whole foods, such as nuts, raw fruits and vegetables that can become stuck in their throats and cause them to choke.
Caffeinated drinks and sugary fruit juices should also be avoided.
Up to pre-school age children
Keep introducing new textures into your child’s meals, focus on home-prepared foods and don’t assume that your little one won’t like certain foods. If they don’t like a certain food now it doesn’t mean they will not like it forever. Offer different varieties at various stages to keep it interesting.