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Combining foods to make a balanced diet for your baby

Posted on 30 October 2012 by Helen

Hi,

Last time I was talking about how to prepare your baby for a good balanced diet and a good relationship with food.  But I didn’t really talk about what foods a baby needs to eat to achieve this balance and to get all the nutrients they need for optimal growth and development.

The important thing to remember is that no single food can give a child all the necessary nutrients after 6 months of age (obviously before this breastmilk, or formula, can), so from 6 months we must eat a combination of foods from 5 different food groups. These are:

Cereals and potato – e.g. breakfast cereals, bread, chappati, pitta, rice, couscous, pasta, potatoes.  These should be included in each meal.  Aim for 3-4 servings a day and offer as much variety as possible over the course of a week.

Fruits and vegetables – includes fresh, frozen, tinned and dried.  Again offer them at each meal and as snacks too.  Aim for 5 small portions each day, with lots of different types of fruits and vegetables being introduced.  There are plenty to choose from.  Remember, fruit juices can only count as one of their ‘5 a day’.

Milk and dairy foods – e.g. milk, cheese, yogurt, fromage frais.  Aim for 3 servings a day.  Obviously, before your baby is fully weaned onto a mixed diet comprising 3 meals a day they will probably be taking more than this.  Remember too that all milk and dairy products should be full-fat until your baby is at least 2 years old.

Meat, fish and alternatives – e.g. meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and pulses. Aim for 1-2 servings a day if your child eats meat and fish, but if they are vegetarian they should have 2-3 servings a day.  Whole nuts should not be given before the age of 5 years, and if there is a family history of allergies then you should check with your health visitor or doctor before introducing any nut products into your baby’s diet.

Foods high in fat and sugar – active toddlers and children need some of these foods to help provide energy and some important fats and vitamins, but the quantities eaten should be small to avoid excess weight gain.  And of course too much sugar can increase the risk of dental caries, especially if eaten in large amounts and at certain times.

Provided your baby eats a good mix of foods from these 5 food groups they should meet all their nutritional needs and this will pave the way for a good balanced diet throughout childhood and beyond.  Don’t worry too much about serving sizes, these will grow as your baby grows, but if you are concerned at any time you should speak to your health visitor or ask to speak to a paediatric dietitian who will be able to fully assess your baby’s diet.

Best wishes.
Helen

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Categories: Weaning, Baby development

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Baby-led weaning versus conventional weaning

Posted on 3 August 2012 by Helen

Hi,

I don’t know about you guys, but we’re all caught up in Olympic fever here and competition seems to be on our minds constantly.  So if baby-led weaning was to compete with conventional weaning which would win?  Are there any real advantages of one over the other?  Do you have to choose one method or can you in fact combine the two?

Baby-led weaning is definitely winning the race in popularity with many parents at the moment and this was boosted by the media coverage earlier this year that claimed that ‘spoon feeding makes babies fatter’.  This story was based on a research study carried out at Nottingham University which looked at the impact of weaning method on food preferences and health outcomes in early childhood.  However, this study has been criticised for its small size, with only 155 babies (92 baby-led, 63 spoon-fed), with most of the babies in each group being of a healthy weight.  Many factors can affect a child’s food preferences and body weight, including genetic factors, exercise, social and demographic backgrounds, and as this study only asked questions about eating habits at a single point in time rather than over a period of time it only gave a snapshot of the situation. Some of the findings may also have been due to chance, so in fact this study probably proves very little.  For a more detailed review of this study you might be interested in this article on the NHS website.

Although many parents would back the more conventional approach to weaning as the deserved winner, there is probably a case for combining elements of both approaches to get the best for babies. Babies should be encouraged to feed themselves when they appear ready and you should allow your baby to take control of their own food intake. When they appear to have had enough, don’t force them to eat any more.  It is important that you offer a good variety of foods with different tastes and textures, including a wide variety of finger foods, and babies should be given a spoon to feed themselves with as soon as possible.  We know weaning is a messy business, but we need to accept and prepare for this and not discourage independence.

Of course, as parents we like to know how much food our baby is eating and this is often easier with more traditional weaning methods, but we have to accept that with childhood obesity rates on the rise we must keep an open mind about what is the best way to wean a baby.  A much larger study looking at feeding of babies from the start of weaning over several years would give us much needed and invaluable information on which to base the best weaning advice for you all in the future.

Let me know about your experiences – which weaning approach do you favour?

Best wishes

Helen

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Setting a good example around foods

Posted on 2 May 2012 by Helen

Hi everyone,

As parents we have many responsibilities. One that shouldn’t be underestimated in this day and age, in my opinion, is teaching our children about healthy food choices and sensible eating.  

We must try to help our children feel good about their bodies and show them how to maintain a healthy body weight, whilst ensuring that the foods they choose provides all the nutrition they need for good health and well-being. Whilst you may feel you don’t have all the skills and nutritional knowledge to pass on to your children, there are various tools available to help you do this. Some links that you might find useful for yourself and any older children are given below:

NHS - Good food for home

NHS - Change 4 Life

Some simple things to remember include:

  • Offer children a variety of nutritious foods at planned meal and snack times – and if possible eat with them and use it as an opportunity to talk about different foods and why they are good to include in the diet
  • Plan meals and snacks at regular times - Having set meals and snack times can help children develop good eating patterns and teach them good food behaviors
  • Don’t overfeed – try and pick up on their cues for when they are hungry or full. Babies and young children generally have ways of telling you when they are hungry and know when they’ve had enough to eat. Don’t force babies and young children to finish off all the food that you offer them if they don’t seem to want it.
  • Try and be a positive role model for a healthy lifestyle - Children like to imitate adults, and will learn many of their attitudes about healthy (or unhealthy) eating and physical activity from you. Be enthusiastic about trying new foods yourself. Spend time playing actively with them and don’t just sit and watch. When children notice that you are trying new foods and playing actively, they are more likely to do the same.

For a handy guide on what makes up a good diet for a baby, why not have a look at our leaflet.

I hope you’ve found this interesting.

Best wishes,

Helen

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Ideal foods for your hospital bag

Posted on 22 February 2012 by Helen

Hi Everyone!

So are you nearly there? After what may have seemed an eternity, is your pregnancy nearing the end? 

For those of you at this stage, you may well be thinking about packing your bag that you take with you to the hospital and wondering what snacks or drinks to put in it. Of course what you take will depend on your favourites and what you think you might fancy, but some suggestions that I can recommend to help keep your energy levels up and to keep you well hydrated during your labour might be dried fruit, dry biscuits, cereal bars, glucose tablets and bottles of water or isotonic sports drinks. Of course these are all things that you can pack in advance, but on the day you might think of adding some extras, such as some fresh fruit, a sandwich or a yogurt. Don’t worry about whether these foods are healthy or not, but I suggest you keep away from any foods high in fats as these can make you feel very uncomfortable and may make you be sick!

Often mums in labour aren’t really thinking about food at all or may not be able to face eating anything. But if your labour is dragging on a bit, or if you do feel like eating something, then I suggest you stick to nibbling on snacks. A big meal will probably not be an option and you really won’t feel like it anyway. It’s a good idea to keep any eating or drinking during labour to ‘little and often’ and probably only in the early stages of labour.

Depending on how long your labour lasts, you may or may not need the glucose tablets to keep you going and the isotonic sports drinks may or may not be necessary, but best to go prepared.

And as for foods that might bring on your labour and therefore your hospital trip? - we did a survey of nearly 1800 new mums and perhaps not surprisingly of the mums that responded to the question “If you ate a particular food to try and bring on labour, what was it and did it work?”, eating ‘spicy food’ including curries came out as top favourite choice, followed by drinking red raspberry leaf tea and eating pineapple. In many cases these didn’t work, but many would argue they were worth a try!

Good luck with your preparations.

Best wishes,
Helen

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Baby’s first Christmas

Posted on 16 December 2011 by Helen

 

Hi again,

Your baby’s first Christmas is a magical time for them and for you. It’s a time when you can re-live some of the wonderful traditions that you grew up with at this time of year and maybe even introduce some new ones. Of course your little one will probably be too young to appreciate it all, but will undoubtedly enjoy the lights and sparkling decorations, the extra attention of family and friends, and of course the presents (or more specifically what they’re  wrapped up in!).

With everything that’s going on it might be quite hard but do try and keep your baby’s routine as close to normal at this time. Babies prefer it this way and they (and you) will stay calmer and happier as a result. There’s no need to splash out on extravagant presents when they’re tiny (and as a mother of 3 teenagers I can assure you their requests will get more costly as they get older so hold onto your money while you can!). And remember to take lots of photos of these special times.

Continue with your normal mealtime routine, but why not offer them a Christmas Day menu?  For breakfast, try HiPP Apple & Cranberry Breakfast (either on its own or added to baby’s normal cereal); a Christmas lunch from HiPP's selection of festive recipes, followed by a fruity HiPP dessert; and of course whatever your baby fancies in the evening.

We all hope that you and your baby have a fabulous Christmas!

Helen and the HiPP team.

 

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