Healthy eating habits start early!
Compared to adults, children have very different needs for essential nutrients. They will also need different feeding times and different types and qualities of foods. Tastebuds take a long time to mature, so food for children often needs to be simple in texture, flavour, preparation, and presentation.
Meal times should be enjoyable and free from stress, with an emphasis on the positive enjoyment of foods and drinks. It is helpful if parents and caregivers maintain an open acceptance of all foods rather than expressing dislikes, or labeling foods 'good' or 'bad'.
Avoid having foods containing high amounts of sugar, salt, and fat in the house, and set an example by eating healthy, nutrient rich foods yourself.
Guidelines for the introduction of solids
It can be tempting to start feeding your baby solid foods at an early age, but on a delicate new digestive system this may cause indigestion or food intolerances and sensitivities. We recommend starting solid foods preferably from 6 months of age. When you start, introduce one new food at a time, every 4 - 5 days, and change the variety, texture, and quantity as your baby grows.
First foods need to be soft, smooth and warm - use a blender or sieve, or mash foods well with a fork, then add breast milk, infant formula or warm water to make the food soft enough to swallow. Lumps, raw foods, and small foods such as nuts and raisins should be avoided in case they cause choking.
Give infants plenty to drink - warm water, breast milk, or infant formula, although once your baby has started on solids they will need less milk. Avoid adding salt, sugar, spices, butter or sauces to food, keep your baby's meals and drinks simple and healthy. Start early with healthy eating habits.
Suggestions for meals include:
• soft cooked ground rice or ground millet porridge with a little pureed fruit or yoghurt
• pureed cooked apples, pears, peaches, or banana with plain yoghurt
• pureed cooked kumara, pumpkin, carrot, marrow, or silverbeet with finely minced meat, chicken, fish, egg, or tofu.
Vicki Martin, Dietitian