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Optimum Nutrition for Babies

by June Butlin(more info)

listed in nutrition, originally published in issue 29 - June 1998

I believe that optimum nutrition is essential in maintaining optimum health. It is vital to our lives as our bodies have been completely built and maintained by the foods that we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. We are totally dependent on these foods as they are the starter molecules for all the biochemical activities that take place within the body, ie. running, breathing, thinking, digesting foods etc.

The quality and balance of our food intake is therefore a key factor in determining how healthy we are.

I also believe that we shall soon see nutrition playing a greater role in our health care system. A time will come when nutrition will have to be considered as a factor in all diseases and a time when natural supplements will replace many drugs. Hopefully, also, in the future, every baby will have his or her own individualised nutrition program, based on biochemical individuality. This would help to establish the optimum health possible for the genetic disposition of the baby, and prevent future degenerative diseases.

Until that time, it should be our responsibility to make sure that our babies are given the best possible nutritional start in life. I have outlined below some quality nutritional guidelines for weaning and a menu plan for a ten month baby on a mixed diet.

Breast feeding is the finest nutritional support for a baby if the mother has been following an optimum nutrition program. However, mothers who are unable to breast feed should choose a quality formula milk.

It should contain, amongst other nutrients iron, zinc, manganese, chromium and selenium.

Weaning a baby is a good time to establish good eating habits. The basic premise would be to follow an unprocessed, high fibre diet, that does not contain additives, preservatives and colours. It should avoid sugar, salt and saturated fats.

Introduction to solids should take place when the baby seems dissatisfied with breast or formula milk. This usually coincides with teething at approximately 6 months of age. As the baby's digestive system is immature an earlier introduction to solids may promote an allergic reaction. At first, the baby may like to have the solid food mixed with breast or bottle milk for a familiar taste.

As the baby will be getting most of the protein, carbohydrate and fat from the breast or bottle milk, it would be wise to introduce vegetables and fruits first as they are packed with vitamins and minerals. Other foods can then be introduced, in the following order, of which cause the least allergic reaction: rice, millet, tofu and soya products, pulses and beans, oats, barley and rye, nuts and seeds, fish, meat, oranges, wheat, cow's milk products and egg (the white of an egg should not be given to a baby under ten months).

Vegetables can be boiled, minced, steamed, baked or poached in milk and served pureed, mashed or made into soups. As the baby becomes more used to solids, the vegetables can be mashed with egg yolks, yoghurt, beans, cottage cheese, tofu, humous and cereal flours. When the baby is teething, celery and carrot sticks make excellent finger foods, to suck or chew.

Fruits can be pureed in a little water and mashed, baked in the oven or grated. The unsulphured varieties of dried fruits can be soaked overnight and stewed in a little water until soft enough to mash.

These fruits can be mixed with yoghurt, silken tofu or cottage cheese.

Cereals are a good source of energy and contain the important B vitamins.

For babies you need to use the grains either in flakes or as flour. The cereals can be added to mashed beans, peas and lentils, other vegetables, dairy, soya, tahini, ground nuts and seeds, and later with fish and meat.

Fish and meat are harder to digest and may be introduced from the ninth month. The baby will need a combination of oily fish, white fish and white meat. These should be grilled or baked in the oven, and served minced or very finely cut.

Nuts and seeds can be ground to a powder and mixed with water to produce a nut cream or can be sprinkled on cereals or fruit and vegetables for extra protein. Nut milks are suitable for babies as they are close to breast milk in composition. To make these you place nuts and water in a liquidiser and blend until the consistency is smooth.

Beans and lentils are protein foods when combined with grains. They can be cooked, then pureed or mashed. Alternatively beans can be ground to a flour and cooked in water with rice or millet flour. Tofu (soya bean curd) is excellent for babies as it has a bland taste which can be blended with other foods and is easily digested.

Babies will need lots of bottled or filtered water in the weaning process.

Once the baby is weaned it is not essential to include large amounts of cow's milk. It may not be beneficial to the baby as it contains large amounts of calcium, and only small amounts of magnesium. Calcium can only be utilised in the body in the presence of adequate magnesium. Nut milks, soya, rice and oatmilk can be substituted.

Fresh fruit and vegetable juices diluted with four parts water to one part juice are excellent choices.

Daily Menu for a ten month baby on a mixed diet.

Choose a food from each of the following groups:

–   Dairy Products and Eggs – do not exceed 3 eggs a week
–   Meat or Fish / Beans, Peas and Lentils / Nuts and Seeds – 2ozs.of any of these foods will be adequate.
–   Cereals – At least one 2oz portion.
–   Vegetables – Serve at least three portions including the green and yellow varieties, and some raw vegetables, as finger foods, under supervision.
–   Fruit – At least 2 pieces.
–   Essential Fats – 2 teaspoons of cold pressed safflower, sunflower or olive oil, and 2 portions of oily fish each week.
–   Drinks – Bottled or filtered water plus vegetable and fruit juices.


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About June Butlin

June M Butlin PhD is a trained teacher, nutritionist, kinesiologist, aromatherapist, fitness trainer and sports therapist. She is a writer, health researcher and lecturer and is committed to helping people achieve their optimum level of health and runs a private practice in Wiltshire. June can be contacted on 01225 869 284;

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