Superfoods for baby
It's never too soon to start slipping ‘superfoods’ into your child's diet. Packing a super punch of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants they’ll help give your baby a great start.
By Rebecca Williamson
Trying to smuggle vital nutrients into your child’s meals and snacks is a never-ending challenge that begins when they first start solids as a baby. Of course, a diet high in various vegetables and fruits is key to giving your little one the best start in life, but some bites offer more health benefits than others. More commonly known as ‘superfoods’, these ingredients pack a powerful vitamin, mineral and antioxidant punch in just one serving, and incorporating them into your bub’s daily menu is a great way to keep them healthy and happy.
Nutritionist Jacquie Dale, owner of Hamilton’s 101 Nutrition and busy mum of twin boys, shares how to introduce different superfoods into your baby’s diet at every stage.
First tastes (6 months)
It’s easy to increase the nutrient content of your baby’s diet as they start to experiment with solid food. While it’s important to introduce first foods one by one to check for any allergies or intolerances, whizzing up a variety of vegetables, fruit and proteins together can make a nutrient-packed purée.
Iron-rich foods are essential at this stage – by six months your baby will start to run low on the stores they were born with. Ramp it up by introducing proteins loaded with haem iron such as lamb, beef, chicken and fish, and serve with a superfood laden with vitamin C, such as kale, to assist its absorption.
“Iron helps your baby to form blood cells and transports oxygen around their body,” explains Jacquie. “Vitamin C, vitamin D and the essential fats EPA and DHA are also important at this stage, and puréed meats, well-cooked carrots, kumara, pumpkin, apple and banana will provide these nutrients.”
Avocado, in particular, is a superstar for babies starting solids. Not only can it be mixed in easily with most first foods, it can be puréed fresh (thinned with a little breastmilk, water or formula), is a great source of monounsaturated fat (great for heart health and brain development) and boasts a long list of nutrients including folate, vitamins C, E and K, calcium and fibre. This superfood should be a staple throughout all of your baby’s stages.
Textures and tidbits
Your baby is now likely to be more confident with trying new tastes, so it’s a good time to expand the menu. Jacquie says iron and vitamin C are still at the forefront in terms of essential nutrients at this stage, so superfoods such as antioxidant-rich blueberries, kiwifruit and fish are ideal for maintaining your bub’s overall health.
You may also consider introducing nut butters. There are many health benefits to be gained from eating no-added-sugar nut butters such as almond, which boasts a good dose of vitamin E to boost the immune system. Try serving it on a slice of kiwifruit or a simple wholegrain cracker (remember to watch for any adverse reactions).
“Salmon, including tinned salmon, is perfect for babies of this age as it’s a quality source of the Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are great for neurological and visual development. It’s also a natural mood booster,” says Jacquie. “Wholegrains such as quinoa (a nutritional powerhouse of amino acids, enzymes, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants) or oats are great for introducing texture. You can cook them in a vegetable broth for flavour or soak wholegrain oats in a natural, low-sugar yoghurt and cook with fruit for breakfast.”
Chopped and finger foods
As your baby becomes more social and may start to attend childcare it’s a good idea to help strengthen their immune system through their diet. He or she will also need extra energy for all that crawling! Jacquie says her superfoods for this age group are a combination of those mentioned above (particularly meats and fish) plus eggs, raw veggies and oranges.
“Protein and complex carbohydrates help with immunity, growth, development and energy levels, so it’s important to include protein in every meal and snack,” says Jacquie.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein and other nutrients such as selenium (good for the immune system), zinc (assists growth) and vitamin D (for strong, healthy bones). Cook one up in an omelette with leafy green veggies such as spinach and kale, or try giving half a boiled egg as an afternoon snack. “Eggs can be eaten every day but it’s important to vary the protein sources,” advises Jacquie.
You could also try sprinkling a little brewer’s yeast in their morning cereal for an iron and vitamin B boost, or mix in half a teaspoon of LSA (ground linseeds, sunflower seeds and almonds) into their yoghurt for brain, digestive and heart benefits.
Now that your little one has a handle on what they do and don’t like, it can sometimes prove tricky to maintain their superfood-filled diet. Ideally, your child should be eating a combination of the superfoods already mentioned, but serving them in a variety of ways is the trick to keeping them interesting.
Get creative and make colourful super-smoothies (with probiotic yoghurt, blueberries and leafy greens for healthy eyes, bones, tummy and central nervous system), veggie-packed mini muffins or bliss balls made with ground nuts, quinoa and coconut oil. For a cool treat, dip a potassium-packed banana in yoghurt, dust lightly with crushed nuts or LSA, then freeze it.
“Chickpeas are a good source of protein and calcium, so make hummus and serve it with raw veggie sticks, or make some salmon and veggie patties,” suggests Jacquie. “But remember to practise what you preach – you can’t expect your children to eat healthy foods if you don’t!”
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