From around 6 months old, your child needs more than just milk to get adequate nutrients, particularly vitamin D and iron. Although milk should continue to be a significant part of your child’s nutritional intake for many months to come, this is an ideal time to start weaning. Weaning is a gentle process that involves slowly and sensitively replacing your baby’s regular milk with healthy and nutritious food.
Babies grow more rapidly in their first year than at any other time in their life, making it wise to introduce meat, chicken and fish into a baby’s diet soon after the sixth month mark. This is a critical time for the growth of the brain. Babies are born with an iron store that lasts for about six months. While iron deficiency is common in young children, a lack of iron in the diet can lead to impaired mental development.
Red meat provides babies with the best and most easily absorbed source of iron. But babies often reject red meat because of its lumpy texture. Using lean stewed meat and slow cooking meat before pureeing it makes it more appealing to babies. Chicken also supplies a great source of nutrients, with brown meat offering more iron and zinc than the breast. Chicken is versatile and can be combined with sweet potatoes and root vegetables to lend a smooth texture.
For vegetarians, whole-grain cereals and leafy green vegetables provide a good source of iron. However, it is harder to absorb iron from a meat-free source than from meat. To improve absorption, serve nourishment that is rich in vitamin C at the same meal, such as a whole-grain cereal with a glass of orange juice.
Found in oily fish like salmon, fatty acids are also crucial for babies. In the first year of life, a baby’s brain grows at a rapid rate, and a large proportion of the human brain is composed of fatty acids.
There is nothing better for your baby than fresh food that is quick and easy to prepare. It’s also cheaper than giving your baby processed baby food. My simple recipes leave you maximum time to interact with your baby and even have a rest yourself. Because they can be frozen, you can plan ahead and avoid cooking every single day while you do the best for your family.
Hidden Vegetable Bolognese
There are ways to hide ingredients children don’t prefer with foods they do. You can blend several vegetables into a tomato sauce to hide under cheese in a pizza or to use Bolognese-style. This Bolognese dish is great for the developing tastes and eating abilities of toddlers.
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 small leek, thinly sliced
- ½ stick celery, diced
- ¼ small red pepper, diced
- 1 small carrot, peeled and grated
- ½ apple, peeled, cored and grated
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 14 oz. chopped tomatoes
- 1 lb. minced beef
- 4 Tbsp. tomato puree
- 2 Tbsp. ketchup
- 9 oz. beef stock
- ¼ tsp. dried oregano
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and sauté the vegetables, apple and garlic for 10 minutes, until soft. Transfer to a blender and add the tomatoes. Whiz until smooth. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel then add the minced beef and fry over medium-high heat, breaking the beef up with a wooden spoon, until browned. You may need to do this in two batches. If your child likes a finer texture, transfer the browned beef to a food processor and whiz until well chopped. Add the tomato and vegetable sauce to the beef. Stir in the tomato puree, ketchup, stock and oregano. Bring to a simmer and cook for 40-45 minutes, until the sauce is thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pear & Blueberry Puree
Blueberries are packed with vitamin C, which can help reduce the severity and duration of colds and the flu. You can prepare this pear and blueberry recipe well into the winter. As this is quite a runny puree, mix it with some mashed banana or Greek yogurt when serving your baby. It makes 2-3 portions for baby.
- 1 pear, cored and chopped
- 1 ripe peach, peeled, pitted and chopped
- ¼ c. strawberries, cut into quarters
- ¼ c. blueberries
- 2 Tbsp. baby rice
Put all of the fruit into a heavy-based saucepan. Cover and cook over a low heat for about five minutes. Puree in a blender and stir in the baby rice.
Did You Know...?
Food combinations that are higher in calories than fruit and vegetable purees, like fruit mixed with full-fat Greek yogurt, vegetables in cheese sauce and mashed avocado, should be given to your child after the first few weeks of weaning.
Chewing assists with your baby’s speech development. As the muscles used to chew are the same muscles used for speech, add texture to your baby’s food after 7 or 8 months.
Cow’s milk is fine to give your infant in small doses as part of cheese sauces or with cereal. However, breast or formula milk should still be your baby’s main drink.
Babies shouldn’t be given too much fiber. It can fill them up before they get all the nutrients needed for proper growth and development. Excess fiber can also remove valuable minerals.
It’s prudent to introduce a wide range of foods as early as possible, provided there is no family history of allergies.