While walking through the supermarket the other day I was struck by the amount and variety of food available, and that’s not including the different types of baby milk formula.
Getting the right nutrition for babies can ensure a lifetime of good health, the start of good eating habits, which in turn reduces the risk of obesity and heart disease and even improves skills such as reading and writing.
There are many excellent books available, Neven Maguire has a new book out at the moment, and although I do not have it, his other books are nicely presented with recipes that are easy to follow.
Although I am long past feeding babies, I still follow a few basic rules when feeding everyone, be they old or young!!!
1. Watch the salt. This is very important. Too much salt (>1g per day) can start the damage, and most baby milk/ breastmilk covers the majority of this amount. When you taste the food it may taste bland, but a baby’s palate is not as developed.
Season the food with spices or herbs instead if you really feel the need to season, garlic and a tiny amount of black pepper is a good idea, these will also GIVE health benefits.
Be extra vigilant with bought stock cubes and sauces, they can contain a lot of extra salt.
2. Make sure there’s lots of colour and variety. I always try to give family dinners with at least one green, and another vegetable. Sometimes it is frozen peas, but they are the best frozen veg you can get, and sometimes it does need to be quick. Colour and variety means lots of different vitamins and minerals, very good for us all. If your toddler objects to broccoli, then try three cubes of butternut squash, and one sprig of broccoli, once both have been introduced, rather than just giving broccoli.
3. Cut down on sugar. This really applies to us all. But other healthy eating advice- 5 portions of fruit and veg a day- doesn’t help. Fruit naturally contains a high amount of sugar, all be it natural. So try to offer fruits low in sugar; strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, as opposed to those fruits high in sugar; grapes, melon and pineapple. Whole fruits are better than processed, as the fibre from apple skin is good for the digestion and helps negate the sugar content.
Keep an eye on food labels. Sugar is often called other names on the ingredients list. For example: concentrated fruit juice, fructose, golden syrup, inverted sugar syrup, molasses, and sucrose.
4. Try not to cook separate meals, not everybody loves everything, but they very rarely refuse everything, so if you are feeding a child that is not eating fish at the moment, then if you are serving fish, make sure there are adequate veggies etc, so that they will not go hungry if they don’t eat the fish. Obviously it is desirable to have a balanced diet every day, but that’s not always achievable or realistic, so don’t beat yourself up over it.
5. Portion sizes are always an issue. My eyes are usually bigger than my tummy, and I really have tried to cut down the portion sizes for the whole family, unless its salad! I find this hardest when eating out with the family, portion sizes are really out of control, how do they make any money???
Other than that, go with your gut feeling, especially if they are not well, a piece of jam on toast may not be ideal, but if that’s all they will eat when under the weather, then go with it.
I’m not going to recommend any particular brand or type of food for babies or toddlers, but did come across a Waterford company Pip and Pear at the weekend who do seem to know what they are doing, the company owner herself is passionate about nutrition and also how cooking for young ones fits in with family life.