Does your baby have a balanced diet? As they grow, are weaned off breast milk or formula and start to eat solid foods, it is important that you provide them with the right combination of nutrients to promote mental and physical growth and development.
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There is not one single solid food that will meet your young child’s nutritional needs.
Different food types will provide babies with protein, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates to allow for healthy growth.
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A balanced diet of solid foods
Adults require low-fat, high-fibre food, but when it comes to the food your child eats, the opposite is true.
Due to babies and toddlers growing so rapidly, they require solid foods that are relatively high in healthy fats and low in fibre.
Fibre is healthy in small amounts but will fill up your baby and prevent them from eating other healthy food that will provide more nutrients and energy.
You will have to adapt your child’s diet as they grow to match each stage of their development.
Due to the small size of their stomachs, babies cannot eat as much as adults do, and they tend to eat more often. It is therefore crucial that each mouthful is full of the required nutrients.
Whether it is breakfast, dinner, snacks, or treats – it is important that your baby eats a variety of food types when you begin introducing solid foods.
Eating a variety of food will also point out any food allergies that your baby may have.
Food preferences are being formed during the first year of weaning off of breast milk or formula, so you should introduce your young children to different foods, textures, and flavours.
Try introducing new food regularly. When you give your baby solid food for the first time, they may be a bit fussy and appear to dislike a certain food.
Keep in mind that sometimes babies have to try eating something up to 15 times before they start to enjoy it!
Benefits of different food groups for a balanced diet
1) Starchy foods
Starchy foods include bread, cereals, pasta, rice, potatoes, and wholegrain foods.
Starch will provide your baby with energy to grow, however, don’t fill your baby up with starch, make sure to leave room for nutrient-rich foods.
2) Fruit and vegetables
You can provide your baby with fresh, frozen, tinned, or dried fruit, depending on what they can eat and if they have teeth yet.
If your baby is struggling to chew, offer them pureed or strained vegetables as an alternative. Offer a variety of fruit and vegetables in different colours, as they all contain various nutrients and vitamins. Find out more about how to get your kids to eat more fruit and vegetables here.
3) Dairy foods
Dairy products like cottage cheese, yoghurt, and cow’s milk (including semi-skimmed milk) are high in calcium and proteins, which will promote healthy bone growth.
4) Meat, fish, and protein alternatives
This group contains all meat, fish, and protein sources like eggs, tofu, lentils, and legumes. Just note that eggs and oily fish should not be served until your baby is over 6 months.
Try giving your baby finger foods containing meat at least once a day, even if it is just cut-up hot dogs. If you are opting for a vegetarian diet, feed them protein alternatives two or three times a day.
5) Foods high in fat and sugar
This group includes oils, butter, cakes, and sugary treats like cookies.
Feeding your baby fats and sugar will give them plenty of energy, however, it does not contain a lot of nutrients. Rather leave the fatty, sugary foods as treats.
Final thoughts: milk remains important for a balanced diet
Although your baby will eat solid food when they are about 6 months old, they will still not be able to get all the nutrients they need only from their food.
That is why breast milk, or infant formula, remains an important part of healthy eating. It will provide babies with all the vitamins, fats, and proteins they need.
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