Weaning Foods & Top Nutrients to include in your baby’s diet

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“Now that my child is 6 months old, can I wean her off breastmilk and start solids?” Can you relate to this thought? I’m sure most mums are eagerly waiting to start their child on solids so that the baby can stay full longer and their demand for breastfeeding can go down. But, weaning a baby is not like accustoming your child to foods other than milk; instead, weaning foods should help provide your baby with other essential nutrients in addition to breastmilk until her first birthday. Breastmilk should still remain the main source of nourishment. The first stage of weaning helps lay the foundations for healthy eating habits.

C’mon, let’s learn about the top nutrients to include in your child’s formative and weaning food diet and their importance.

During the first six months an infant will double her birth weight and by 1 year her weight would have tripled. To support optimal growth a child will require carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals.

Nutrients can be classified as macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients (Carbohydrates, proteins  and fats) as the name suggests are needed in larger quantities and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are needed in smaller quantities. Nevertheless, both macro and micro nutrients are essential in your little one’s weaning foods diet and if insufficient may lead to food deficiencies. 

Here is a complete list of the nutrients required by your child, along with food sources and recipe ideas. Though note: that at 6 months of age the baby’s weaning diet should be restricted to mashed and boiled fruits and vegetables or as suggested by your doctor. We are nonetheless giving more food sources that you can introduce to your baby once he is older.

Important nutrients required when weaning

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are predominantly energy providing foods that are nutrients that feed the brain. Simple carbohydrates and millets find their way as weaning foods in an infants diet.
Food sources: bananas, rice, wheat, oats, potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, millets.
Recipe tips: ragi porridge, rice khichdi, cooked and mashed potatoes/pumpkin.

Protein

A macronutrient that helps build and repair tissues and plays a vital role in developing muscles, hair, nails, bones and teeth.
Vegetarian food sources: dals such as tuar, moong, and lentils such as chickpeas, rajma; nut and seed powders; dairy products (for older kids though)
Animal food sources: chicken, fish and eggs (again for older kids)
Recipe tips: dal khichdi, cooked dals, idli and dosa

Fats

Another macronutrient which is of prime importance, fats helps the body absorb the fat soluble vitamins and to fill up fat cells providing insulation for the body. Choose fat sources wisely. 
Foods sources: cooking oils, avocados, nuts such as cashews, almonds, pistachios
Recipe tips: Include nut powders in porridges, mashed avocados; use ghee while making idli/dosa and khichdi as part of weaning foods.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are considered essential micronutrients as our body cannot synthesise them and must be provided by food sources. 
Food sources: fruits and vegetables predominantly. A diet that is rich in variety is nutritionally balanced and takes care of deficiencies. Include as many seasonal veggies and fruits in your child’s list of weaning foods.
Recipe tips: fruit smoothie, mashed fruits, boiled & mashed veggies

Listed below are a few common vitamins and minerals that should be included in weaning foods, a lack of which can cause deficiencies among children.

Nutrient Food source (suitable for infants) Recipe Advice Deficiency
Iron wholegrains, beans, lentils, green leafy vegetables, pomegranate, watermelon, egg yolkWholewheat atta chilla, Pomegranate juice, spinach soupInclude Vitamin C rich foods like lime, orange and mosambi for Iron absorption; cook beans and lentils in tomato gravy anaemia
Calcium Yoghurt, almonds, dark leafy vegetables Dahi bath, almond powder in soups and porridges Include Vitamin D drops and sun exposure to enhance calcium absorption  Osteoporosis later on in life
Vitamin D
Sun exposure, egg yolk, supplements Boiled and mashed egg yolk It is very difficult to get adequate vitamin D from diet alone, hence daily sun exposure would do good. Growth delays and soft bones (rickets)
Zinc
Oats, peas, wheat, pumpkin seeds Oat porridge, wheat halwa with sprinkle of pumpkin seeds A balanced meal ensures optimum zinc in your child’s diet Reduced height
Vitamin A All yellow and orange fruits and vegetables Orange juice, Pumpkin puree, mango pulp, tomato soup Too much Vitamin A causes toxicity Eye damage, suppress immune function

Water

Although water is not considered a nutrient, it has vital roles to play in the human  body. To start off with, give 2 to 3 teaspoons of boiled cooled water after every meal.

How to achieve maximum nutritional value in weaning foods

The amount of solids eaten by your infant at this stage is very less, so we need to ensure that it’s loaded with nutrients. An example of a nutrient dense meal would be khichdi with seasonal veggies chopped in it. Let’s analyse it so that you get the hang of planning meals.

Ingredient Nutrient
Rice Carbohydrate
Dal Protein
Vegetables Vitamins and Minerals
Ghee Fats

A few other recipe ideas include idli and tomato rasam, dosa and a vegetable chutney.

Some Important rules you must follow about you baby’s weaning diet

  1. Before her first birthday, your child should have eaten/tasted most foods and should be ready to gradually move on to eating family meals. Texture and spice levels can be modified.
  2. It may take up to 14 times for your child to like a particular food. If she rejects any food item or you feel her tummy hasn’t taken it too well, discontinue it from her diet and re-introduce it a little later in a different form. For example if you tried apple sticks and your child refused it, try offering apple puree in foods to naturally sweeten them.
  3. Do not distract the child while feeding. Talk to her about the food she is about to eat. Tell her what is she eating and what benefits it will give her. DO NOT DISTRACT USING SCREENS.
  4. Do not add salt or sugar to her diet until she’s one, and then, keep the amount used, minimum. This way, she will appreciate the natural taste of foods and be less picky at the table. To quote a parent: “While introducing solids to my daughter, I refrained from using salt and sugar. She now acknowledges the various tastes and is less fussy. She has adapted very well and she voluntarily controls the amount of junk she eats.”

Bottom Line

The most important  thing we owe our children is good health, not extravagant birthday parties or a trip to Disney Land. It is our responsibility to see that her diet’s nutritional composition is balanced. Weaning is a time to allow your child to discover new tastes and develop a lifelong bond with food, this is not a time to be talking calories. Accompany your child as she explores her food journey. It all starts at your dining table.

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