During the first six months of life, breast milk or formula provides your baby with all the essential nutrients for healthy growth.
Solid foods may first be introduced at 4-6 months of age. You can begin with rice cereal mixed with a little breast milk or formula. Start small, a tablespoon is sufficient initially. Do not add cereal to a bottle but feed your child with a small spoon as this is a necessary skill that needs to be developed during this time.
Introducing solid foods such as cereal around 4-6 months is important especially for breastfed babies who may not receive enough iron and zinc.
Gradually introduce fruits and vegetables into the diet. Use a food grinder or blender to puree the food. Try one type of food at a time to see how your baby responds. Every 4-5 days you can introduce something new. Once your child is used to fruits and vegetables, you can slowly introduce meats.
You can also try pureed food available at a grocery store. Check the content carefully. Minimize the intake of sugar, salt and modified starches. This keeps your child healthy and avoids unhealthy food cravings and obesity later in life. Excess fat should also be avoided though fats are essential for brain and nerve development at this stage.
Follow your child’s hunger cues. Your child will eat enough to maintain health and growth and serving sizes should be adjusted slowly. If a food type is rejected, avoid it for a few days and then try again. As teeth start to erupt, more and more chewy foods can be introduced.
As infants grow to be toddlers, their appetites and tastes vary from time to time. Make sure you always have a selection of healthy foods to offer. It is important that they receive enough calcium as their bones and teeth develop. Milk is an excellent source. Other sources include soy milk, sardines, oatmeal and fortified cereals. Fiber is another important part of the diet which aids digestion and prevents constipation as well as heart disease. Fiber can be obtained through fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
As your child starts going to school, keep an eye on unhealthy snacking. Carbohydrates, fats and sodium are necessary for growth and energy but when consumed excessively they can lead to weight gain and other health issues. Packing your child’s lunch with healthy foods is a better option than having him or her rely on the cafeteria. Good eating habits are best developed in early childhood.