Healthy for baby foods
Healthy for baby foods
Give your baby a wide variety of vegetables as soon as you start weaning. Starting your baby off with vegetables early may mean he carries on eating and enjoying them when he’s older.
Vegetables add colour, texture and variety to your baby’s meals, helping to make first foods fun! They’re high in vitamins, minerals and fibre, too. Vegetables help healthy growth and development, and may help to protect against some diseases in the long term.
It’s easier to give new vegetables to your baby from the start of weaning. If you wait until he’s older, he’s more likely to reject unknown foods and unfamiliar flavours. If your baby pulls a face when he first tries a new vegetable, it may not mean he dislikes it. He may just be surprised by the new taste.
Some vegetables, such as kale, brussels sprouts and watercress, are full of goodness but have a strong flavour that your little one may need to learn to like. Don’t try to coax him into eating it if he doesn’t accept it at first. Be patient. Leave it off the menu for a few days and try again. You may need to offer new vegetables 10 times or more before deciding that your baby doesn’t like them.
Try tempting your baby with milder-tasting vegetables too, such as parsnip and sweet potato. Babies are naturally drawn to sweet tastes, so you may have more luck with these vegetables. Keep offering more bitter foods as well, though. That way, your baby will gradually learn to like a wide range of different flavours.
You can also try combining bitter and sweet foods, to help your baby get a wider range. Over time, you can reduce the amount of the sweeter food, helping your baby get more used to the bitter taste until he’s happily tucking in.
If your little one prefers finger foods rather than pureed or well-mashed foods, let him get on with it. He may like the feeling of being in control of his food rather than being spoon-fed. Try giving him cooked green beans, steamed broccoli florets, or soft-cooked fingers of carrot, for example.
You can give your baby well-mashed or flaked fish from six months onwards. Fish is particularly good for your baby. It’s a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals. The omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish, such as fresh salmon and mackerel, are good for your baby’s heart health and may also support his brain development.
When you give your baby any fish, make sure it’s cooked thoroughly. It should begin to flake and be opaque. Always check the fish carefully and remove any bones.
There are some types of fish that your baby shouldn’t eat. Shark, swordfish and marlin have high levels of mercury in them, which may affect your baby’s growing nervous system. These should be avoided until your child is a teenager.
Oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon and sardines, are great for your baby. But they can contain low levels of mercury and other chemicals, which can build up in the body over time. So it’s best to limit them to one or two servings per week.
Tuna can also be high in mercury, so it’s best to limit that, too. Again, aim for one or two servings per week.
Most types of white fish are completely safe, and you can give your baby as much as you like. This includes cod, haddock, plaice, coley, dab and flounder. The only exceptions are sea bream, bass, turbot, halibut and rock salmon. These can all contain similar levels of pollutants to oily fish, and should also be limited.
This may all sound a little confusing, but don’t let it put you off. The NHS recommends that we all get at least two portions of fish a week, including one of oily fish. If you just feed your baby fish twice a week or so, he’ll be getting plenty of nutrients with no need to worry about pollutants.
- Poultry and red meat
Meat is an excellent source of protein and a good source of nutrients such as iron and zinc. Red meat also contains vitamin D. When your baby is six months, the stores of iron that he built up when you were pregnant are starting to run out. So it’s important to introduce other sources of iron into his meals.
You can give your baby poultry or meat as soon as he’s six months old. Although you may not think of meat as an obvious weaning food, soft or minced poultry or meat is a great food for your baby.
You may prefer to start with soft, cooked poultry, such as chicken. But you can also introduce red meats, such as pork, beef or lamb.
Always take care to cook any meat thoroughly, until the juices run clear, and remove any bones.
“Pulses” is the name for edible seeds that grow in a pod. Examples of pulses include: baked beans, runner beans, broad beans, kidney beans, butter beans (Lima beans), haricots, cannellini beans, flageolet beans, pinto beans and borlotti beans
These foods are another good source of protein and iron. They’re particularly important if your baby’s eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, as he may find it difficult to get enough of these nutrients from other sources.
Soya beans (tofu) aren’t a pulse, but they’re also a great source of protein and iron.
Once your baby is enjoying a variety of food, he should have one or two portions of protein-rich foods, such as pulses, dairy, eggs, meat or fish, every day.
Try mixing lentils or other cooked pulses with vegetables or fruits, to help your baby to absorb the iron in them. For example, you could try giving your baby pureed or soft lentils with carrots or sweet potatoes. The vitamin C in the vegetables helps your baby’s body to absorb the iron.
It’s fine to use tinned pulses and beans, but check the label to make sure there’s no added sugar or salt.
If you’re using dried pulses or beans, follow the cooking instructions carefully. They usually need to be soaked before cooking to make them soft enough for your baby. It’s particularly important to follow the instructions if you’re cooking dried kidney beans or soya beans, as they could make your baby ill if not properly cooked.
When you first start introducing solid foods, your baby will be eating very small amounts, probably just a few teaspoons or small chunks of food a day. He’ll still be getting most of his nutrients from breastmilk or formula milk. So keep giving him regular breastfeeds, or about 500ml of formula milk a day, as his main drink until he’s a year old.
You don’t need to give your baby follow-on milk. His usual milk and a variety of solid foods (plus a vitamin supplement for some babies) will give your little one all the nourishment he needs.
By the time your baby is a year old, he’ll be eating three meals a day, perhaps with one or two snacks in between. After that, you can keep breastfeeding, or give your baby full-fat cow’s milk as a main drink if you want to. Semi-skimmed milk isn’t recommended until your baby’s two years old. Before then, he needs the extra calories and vitamins from full-fat milk