8 first foods for healthy babies

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

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RICE cereal may be the first food for babies that's pushed by baby food manufacturers, but there are other foods that you can try when baby first shows an interest, that are even better than cereal. An infant's interest in food other than milk will start at around four to five months, when many Jamaican parents start introducing solids. The key to judge readiness is when baby can sit up comfortably on his own, can control his head, can move food to the back of his throat to swallow, and shows interest in what the family is eating. Introduce one food at a time to gauge baby's reaction, and then increase and add variety as baby gets older.

Fact is, you want your baby to eventually follow the same (healthy) diet as the rest of the family, while appreciating foods and building tolerance. You also want to watch out for things like allergies and foods that will cause digestion problems, but overall, when baby starts eating from the family pot you want to keep things as interesting as you can.

You want to, of course, avoid foods like honey and cow's milk until baby is a year old, as well as citrus fruits and pineapple, which are acidic and may cause rashes and gastric upset. Shellfish is also a no-no because of potential allergens. And, of course, mashing and pureeing are best to prevent choking.

All that considered, below are eight great first foods that you may not even have considered feeding your little one.

Avocado pear

It's pear season, so this food is in good supply and your baby will love it. Not only does the pear taste great, in addition to being a natural energy source it provides a small amount of carbs and protein, along with vitamins C, B2, B3, B6, K, E, folate, pantothenic acid, and low quantities of vitamins A and B1. The fruit is also rich in minerals such as potassium, copper, magnesium, manganese and low levels of iron, zinc, phosphorous and calcium. It is also a great source of dietary fibre and antioxidants. These are all good for babies who need carbohydrates and fats, as well as proteins for their growth during the crucial first years of life.

Bananas

Ripe bananas are very popular with babies because they taste great, and an added benefit is their high potassium content. Bananas also contain a beneficial amount of both soluble and insoluble fibre, protein, magnesium, copper, manganese, and vitamins C and B6. Overripe bananas are no problem either — they are higher in nutrients and easiest for baby to digest.

Peas

Peas and beans may cause a little gas, but they are a great source of protein, iron, folate, zinc and manganese. Make sure that your legumes are cooked to 'soft-fection' before pureeing, and you may want to mix in breastmilk or formula for taste.

Chicken

Don't add curry just yet, but chicken provides an excellent source of protein and iron for your baby, which helps with muscle growth. It also has key nutrients like phosporous and calcium and vitamins A, C and B12 which help with brain development. Don't season too heavily if at all — pureed boiled chicken, for example, is perfectly OK.

Sweet potatoes

This tasty tuber is chock full of Vitamin C which has antioxidant properties, which makes sweet potatoes great for improving the immune system. As a result, baby will suffer less from the common cold, cough, flu, and other illnesses.

Yoghurt

The good thing about yoghurt is that it is already pureed, and so half your work will be done if you're a super busy parent. It's also a good first food because it has calcium, protein, and vitamins that are essential for baby's growth. Ensure that you get plain, unflavoured and unsweetened yoghurt, and you can even mix in fruit or vegetables for variety.

Pumpkin

This affordable and tasty food is rich in beta carotene and minerals like calcium, magnesium and phosphorus that help in your baby's healthy growth and development. Spruce the pumpkin mash up a bit by adding formula or breastmilk, as baby might not like the bland taste initially. Pumpkin is low in fat and calories, but high in fibre, which will prevent or ease constipation.

In-season fruits

In-season fruits like otaheite apples and mangoes are good treats for babies, but watch the amount of mangoes your baby eats because of the high sugar content. Both fruits are a good source of vitamin C, calcium, thiamine and riboflavin.

Note that whatever you introduce to your baby is about your personal family preference — for example, some grandmothers swear by cornmeal porridge and soups from early, and others swear by the trusted boiled Irish potato, carrots and cho-cho mix. Just know that preparation is what's important to prevent a choking hazard, and so is mixing things up now and again so the baby doesn't get bored.

Also very important is not introducing sugar and salt too soon. Sugar is not only bad for baby's emerging teeth, but it will influence the foods the baby will enjoy as he grows up. And the baby's kidneys can't handle a lot of salt, so don't get carried away in trying to make the food tasty.

Don't be daunted by making your own baby food — if you don't have a food processor a blender will do just fine, or even your fork or a hand-held masher. Just make note of the date you make the food, store and reheat it properly, and use within a short time of preparing.


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