Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Posted at: Apr 14, 2018, 12:55 AM; last updated: Apr 14, 2018, 12:55 AM (IST)WELLNESS

How to make your child a healthy eater

Introduce your infant to a variety of foods so that the baby can grow up to develop good eating habits
How to make your child a healthy eater

Dr Rajendra P Shetty

Did you know that a new-born baby carries the supply of iron that is borrowed from its mother’s blood in the womb? And this store can last the baby for a good six months. As parents, we often worry that our children are not eating enough. And even if they are eating, is it the right food?

Exploring the food palate begins early — right in the womb, in fact. Research shows that although the baby is enveloped in amniotic fluid, it can taste molecules from the mother’s bloodstream. The lack of sense of smell, however, impairs a fuller appreciation. Still, the foetus can sense different foods and may even react to the mother-to-be’s gastric discomfort.

Nevertheless, despite the usual worry by new parents about an infant not eating properly, it is possible to over-feed a young baby. If an infant is given too much milk, its tiny stomach and intestinal tract cannot handle it. This discomfort will be visible in signs such as excess flatulence, belching, regurgitation, more than usual number of wet nappies a day and so on.

Healthy eating habits are essential for proper growth and development. Most eating principles remain the same throughout one’s life but priorities change with age. New-born children are unable to take in solid food due to absence of teeth. But the formation of nerve tissue and grey cells requires fat and cholesterol. 

Good eating plan for the new born 

In the first four to six months after birth, an infant should be fed fortified cereals mixed with a milk formula, breast milk and occasionally, water. This is to ensure an adequate supply of iron when the baby’s natural store will begin to be expended. During the first six months, an infant can survive and sustain itself on breast milk alone.

You may introduce meats in strained form as early as the seventh month, if non-vegetarian is an option in your home. Otherwise, pureed or strained fruits, including bananas, pears and apples, may be fed to the baby. Do ensure that the initial serving is as liquid as possible. Mix the solid with water if necessary. Add a dash of rice cereal if you wish to maintain texture.

At an advanced stage in this period, you may serve pureed vegetables such as carrots, peas or potatoes. Yogurt, whether milk or soy based, can also supplement the normal dish.

Between the eighth and the 10th month, the baby can be fed dishes that progress towards the solid. So, mashed fruits and vegetables, egg yolks without the white portion, can be served, instead. Soft foods such as banana or pasta, teething crackers and fine-grained cereals may be introduced.

Learn to recognise and avoid allergic items from the menu.

Why should children try

different foods

Nutritionists recommend exposing young children to a variety of healthy foods according to their age to reinforce lifelong eating habits. It is a well-researched conclusion that healthy children do well in school, on the playing field and later in their working life span. They will also age well and pass on the good stock to perpetuity.

What you, as a parent, need to ensure is that the young child gets to try all kinds of vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains and meats. Mind you, all of these do not have to be served in the same meal or even on the same day. The menu can be served over the course of the week.

Until children grow and develop their own eating likes and dislikes, parents should try to develop their taste buds so as to develop healthy eating habits. 

The writer is senior consultant, paediatrics, Paras Bliss Hospital, Panchkula


n Begin with simple foods: Start with single-ingredient foods without any sugar or salt. Wait for three to five days before introducing each new food. This way if a baby has a reaction — such as diarrhea, rash or vomiting — you’ll know the cause.

n Offer all groups of food: Iron and zinc are important nutrients after six months. Give pureed or strained meats and single-grain, iron-fortified cereals like oatmeal or barley. Pureed dal or dalia khichdi can be given.

n Baby food basics: While feeding fortified baby cereals, mix with breast milk or formula. Don’t serve it from a bottle. Instead, help your baby sit upright and offer it with a small spoon once or twice a day. 

n Give vegetables and fruits: Slowly introduce pureed vegetables and fruits.

n Finger foods: Most babies can eat little portions of finely chopped finger foods, such as soft fruits, vegetables, pasta, cheese, well-cooked meat, baby crackers and dry cereal by eight months to 10 months. 

n  Offer three-meals a day by one year: As your baby approaches his/her first year, start giving the baby three proper meals a day, with added snacks that can be mashed or chopped versions of whatever you’re eating.


n Avoid cow’s milk or honey before one year: Cow’s milk doesn’t meet an infant’s nutritional needs. It isn’t a good source of iron and can increase the risk of iron deficiency. Honey contains spores that can cause a serious illness known as infant botulism.

n Don’t give foods that may cause choking: Don’t offer meat or cheese chunks, grapes, raw vegetables or fruit chunks, unless diced into small pieces. Also, don’t give hard foods like seeds, nuts, popcorn and hard candy. 

n Avoid certain green veggies before four months: Don’t give home-prepared spinach, beets, carrots, green beans or squash before four month. These foods might contain enough nitrates to cause the blood disorder methemoglobinemia.

n Don’t force-feed: Babies often reject their first servings of pureed foods because of unfamiliar taste and texture. If the baby refuses to eat, don’t force it and try again in a week.

n Avoid juices, give pureed fruits: A whole fruit is more valuable than juice. Too much juice may cause weight problems and diarrhoea. The baby may lose appetite for more-nutritious solid foods. Giving juice before sleep can lead to tooth decay. If you offer juice, wait until the baby is at least six months and make sure the juice is 100 per cent fruit juice. Juices containing vitamin C might improve your baby’s absorption of iron.

Make feeding fun

n Use a high chair: As soon as your baby can sit easily without support, use a stable highchair. Buckle the safety straps.

n Exploration can be entertaining: The baby may play with the food. Although it’s messy, but it is fun and can help in motor development. Just ensure that finger foods are soft, easy to swallow and chopped into small pieces.

n Introduce utensils: Give a spoon to hold while you feed the baby with another spoon. It will improve dexterity.

n Offer a cup: Feeding your baby breast milk or formula from a cup can make weaning from a bottle easy. The baby may be able to drink from a cup on his or her own from nine months onwards.

n Serve individual servings: If you feed your baby directly from a jar or container, saliva on the spoon can quickly spoil leftovers. Instead, place servings in a dish. Opened jars of baby food can be safely refrigerated for two to three days.


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