Feeding your baby can often seem like a daunting challenge. Maybe you’re worried that you’re not feeding them enough, you’re feeding too much, maybe they’ll be allergic, are you giving enough variety, are the meals healthy enough? These worries are totally normal and it’s also important to remember that every baby will respond to foods slightly differently. One day you may think you’ve nailed the broccoli and the next day your baby might go straight back to rejecting it. Again, this is all natural and part of the weaning/ early years process.
One of the most important things you can do is to stay relaxed around mealtimes. Babies will pick up on stress and nerves when you’re offering foods, and this can have a knock on effect to how they respond in the future. Being relaxed is much easier said than done. Learning more about nutrition for babies may give you a little more reassurance that you’re doing the right thing. So that’s why I’m going to take you through a rundown of what makes a healthy balanced meal for a baby.
First things first, why is a healthy balanced diet so important for a baby?
A baby grows up to three times their body weight within their first year. Providing them with a wide range of nutrients is essential in order to ensure they have the capacity to grow and develop appropriately.
What does a healthy balanced diet look like?
The key here is the word balanced. You don’t have to stick to set rules when it comes to feeding your baby. Although there are a few things to consider:
Variety is essential
When it comes to offering fruit and vegetables try and ensure that you’re offering a wide range to increase your baby’s exposure to these foods but also to increase their diversity to plant compounds and micronutrients. For example, if one day you offer broccoli try cauliflower the next. It’s important not to get stuck in a rut with foods which your child deems ‘safe’.
Every meal should contain a source of carbohydrates as these are the bodies preferred fuel. Since your baby is growing so rapidly this is extra important. Sources of complex carbohydrates include: quinoa, oats, sweet potato, potato, rice, pasta. Avoid the wholemeal varieties (or ensure they’re well pureed) for your baby as a high fibre intake can be difficult on your baby’s gut. If you’re offering starchy vegetables ensure you remove the skin first.
Ensure adequate protein
Each meal should contain a source of protein. Protein is essential for growth and repair. Therefore, your baby’s rapid development means it’s important to provide a diverse source of protein. Sources include: fish, meat, eggs, dairy sources, beans or pulses. Note: beans and pulses should be well pureed due to their high fibre content.
If you’ve reduced your baby’s milk it’s important to offer around three servings of dairy per day. Dairy is a strong source of calcium which is very important for supporting the development of bones and teeth. Opt for full-fat dairy where possible. Dairy is also a great source of protein.
Include healthy fats
Healthy fats are essential for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (namely vitamin A, D, E and K) along side essential growth and development of healthy cells. Whilst these don’t need to be contained within every meal you may find that they appear within the other categories. (e.g. avocado, opt for full-fat dairy products, eggs etc.)
So essentially, when it comes to ensuring that your baby is consuming a healthy balanced meal try and ensure it’s got 3 key components (carbohydrates, protein and fruit/ vegetables). Healthy fats are also an important addition, ground seeds and dairy products are a great option to fulfil your baby’s needs.