Naturally, all parents would like to give their babies the best start in life and ensure optimum nutrition. We have compiled a simple list of rules to help you optimise your baby’s diet and make it as nutritionally dense as possible.
Eat the rainbow
Ensure your baby is offered a wide variety of foods stretching across the colour spectrum. Did you know that the colour pigments in foods represent the different antioxidants and phytonutrients that they contain? Eating a rainbow is great advice for adults to follow as well as babies. Another advantage is that babies are attracted to brightly coloured foods (they know what’s best!).
Buy local and fresh
Where possible, eat fruit and vegetables that are in season and from local sources, since these are the most nutrient dense and are also the most cost effective. How about trying a local vegetable box scheme?
Don’t forget pulses
Pulses, such as peas, beans and lentils, make excellent first foods as they are nutrient dense, can be puréed easily, and provide a variety of tastes and textures. Foods, like butternut squash, can be combined with pulses to create a sweeter taste.
Offer meat and fish early
Meat and fish are brilliant first foods as they provide zinc and B vitamins, which are particularly important to support a baby’s organs as they grow. They are also great sources of protein and iron, which can help prevent the development of anaemia. A condition that is becoming more common in children. Both meat and fish can be offered to babies from six months.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you will have heard the hype about omega 3. Essential fatty acids (EFA) are crucial for our health and development, and they cannot be synthesised in our bodies. Therefore we have to get them through our diets.
DHA is an EFA, which is a major component of infants brain, eye and nervous system tissue. Unfortunately, many children do not get enough DHA. Research has linked low levels to conditions, such as autism, ADHD and dyslexia. It’s due to this research that formula milk is now fortified with DHA and breastfeeding women are encouraged to supplement.
Undeniably, the best source of DHA is oily fish. This includes salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring and tuna (SMASHT). Babies should, therefore, be encouraged to eat oily fish twice a week. DHA is also found in flaxseed, wheat germ oil, walnuts (which can be ground and added to food), tofu, and egg yolks.