Early Nutrition – All About Healthy Eating
Looking after the nutritional needs of your baby until six months is fairly easy.
Feed them breast milk (ideally) or formula; but at around six months, a baby's nutritional needs exceed what he or she can get from milk feeds, which is why we begin complimentary feeding or solids.
Breast milk or formula will still remain a considerable part of their nutritional requirements right through until at least 12 months.
It's ideal to start your baby on solids at around six months, as babies are still developing their digestive system. Starting on solids too early can have implications for nutrition balance and allergies.
Rules and principles of a good diet
The 3 basic principles of a good diet - both for baby and for you are variety, wholesomeness and unprocessed food. These help ensure that a diet is nutritionally sound and can be applied to all age groups. In some sense, it is fairly traditional.
Variety in a diet refers to eating a variety of food groups but it also means variety within a food group. With a wide array of foods from the same food group in your child's diet, you can increase the number of nutrients your baby is eating; for example, two different types of fruit a day.
A great, easy way to ensure variety is to check that there is a good range of colours; for example, red fruits and berries (an excellent source of vitamin C), green and yellow vegetables (high in vitamin A), wholegrain and brown bread (high in zinc), white meat (providing protein and iron), dairy (for calcium and riboflavin) and so on.
Select food from a wide variety of sources each day. Diets that exclude one or more food groups are associated with an increased risk of many diseases, but bear in mind that it isn't necessary to eat from each food group at every meal. Eating a little of all sorts of foods can dilute your exposure to problem food components and undesirables, potentially reducing the risk of a reaction.
Next step… Introduce new foods and meals to your child right throughout their lives. Choose foods made from whole products; for example, wholegrain bread contains the goodness of entire grain; similarly with whole bean soy drinks.
A good diet should rely primarily on food that is wholesome and resembles, as far as possible, its original state. This can ensure your diet is rich in important nutrients and will also limit any possible contamination. Nature has packaged food the way it is for a reason. Why process something and then add back the 'stuff' that has been lost along the way?
Ideally, a diet shouldn't rely too much on processed food such as pre-prepared food, fast-food, processed meat (sausages and salami), biscuits, cakes, chocolates, savoury biscuits, chips and so on. As a general rule, the less processed a food is, the greater its nutrient content. Furthermore, the less a food is processed, the fewer preservatives, colours, flavours and additives it may contain. However, given the advanced processing techniques used today, there is an increasing range of frozen and pre-prepared produce that may be quite nutritionally sound.
While there are guides on how much a baby should eat and drink, don't get too hung-up on figures; after all, your baby's growth and development cannot be limited to what the guides have to say. As long as your baby is showing consistent growth and regular bowel habits, it’s all going well.