The early years: Here’s what you should feed your kids at each stage

The role of a healthy diet can’t be emphasised enough when it comes to babies. The initial years are crucial for a child’s development and it is of utmost importance to make sure to give your child a diet that is rich in various vitamins and minerals. Poor nutrition increases the risk of diseases, whereas inappropriate nutrition can lead to childhood malnutrition.

“The period from birth to one year is extremely crucial for a baby’s health,” said Dr Sandeep Sawant, Head of Pediatric Department, Medicover Hospitals, Navi Mumbai.

According to the expert, following feeding stages are very important.

For children up to 6 months

For children up to 6 months, Dr Sandeep recommended breastfeeding only. “Breast milk is excellent food and meets all nutritional needs of the baby for the first 6 months,” he said, adding, “No water or cow/buffalo milk is to be given during this period.”

For children from 6 months to 12 months of age

One of the leading causes of malnutrition is insufficient nutrients or poor diet during the first two years. “After 6 months of age starting complementary feeding in addition to breastfeeding is recommended. Beyond 6 months breast milk alone is not sufficient to meet the increased demands of the growing baby because infants grow at a very rapid rate,” said Dr Sandeep.

For babies’ health and their overall development, Dr Sandeep shared the following dietary tips:

*Start with single-ingredient food

*Infants and young children need to be fed 5 -6 times per day including breastfeeding

*The staple cereal of the family should be used to make the first food

*Porridge can be made with suji (semolina), broken wheat, atta (wheat flour), ground rice, ragi, millet, etc by using little water or formula milk

*Roasted flour of any cereal can be mixed with boiled water and little ghee to make the first food. Adding jaggery and ghee or oil is important as it increases the energy value. “Initially, porridge should be a little watery but as the child grows older the consistency can be made a little thicker. A thick porridge is more nutritious than a watery one,” said Dr Sandeep.

Infants and young children need to be fed 5 -6 times per day including breastfeeding. (Photo: Freepik)

*Once the child starts eating porridge, food including cooked cereal, pulse and vegetables could be given.

*Mixed food like khichadi, dalia, suji, kheer, upma, idli, dhokla, rice-vegetable, etc., can also be given.

*Idli with ghee, jaggery and rice can be made more nutritious by adding dal or vegetables to it. Khichadi can be made more nutritious by adding vegetables.

*In case the family cannot make porridge for the infant separately, pieces of half chapati soaked in half a cup of formula milk or boiled water mashed properly can be fed to the baby after adding jaggery and ghee.

*Fruits like banana, papaya, chikoo, mango, etc can be given at this age in mashed form.

*Infants can also be given reconstituted instant infant food which can be made at home from the food grains available.

*These mixes can be stored at least for 1 month in an airtight container. Eg: sattu like preparation (very familiar in the Indian community), made by 3 parts of cereal (wheat/rice) or millet (ragi/bajara/jowar -sorghum). Add one part of any pulse (moong/chana/Arhar) plus half part of groundnut or white sesame (til) if available. These food items should be roasted separately, ground, mixed properly, and stored in an airtight container.

To feed the baby, take 2 tablespoons of this instant infant food mix and add boiled water or formula milk, jaggery, and oil/ ghee and mix well. Cooked and mashed carrot, pumpkin, or green leafy vegetables can be added to the porridge if available.

After 12 months

Along with the diet mentioned above, a one year old child can eat everything that we eat. Make sure the food is not too hard or too spicy or not too hot and too cold.

These are the foods that must be avoided

*Avoid nuts, grapes, raw carrots, and round candies in babies less than one year of age (to prevent choking)

*Also, honey, soda, tea, and coffee are to be avoided.

*Overconsumption of juices and sweetened beverages

*Salt and sugar should be discouraged

*Avoid energy-rich and nutrient-poor snacks (salty snacks, cookies, sweetened beverages)

For all the latest Parenting News, download Indian Express App.