What to eat at ev­ery age

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - KIDS’ HEALTH SPECIAL -

OW do you cre­ate healthy habits that will last a life­time? It’s not al­ways easy; chil­dren grav­i­tate nat­u­rally to­wards the less healthy treat foods af­ter all, so find­ing a way around that is es­sen­tial. Be­low is a stage-by-stage guide to help you.

π AGE 0-1

The best source of nu­tri­tion for a baby is breast milk. Breast­feed­ing rates in Ire­land have in­creased slowly over the last 10 years. This is great news, but there is a long way to go. Cur­rent rates of ex­clu­sive breast­feed­ing on dis­charge from ma­ter­nity hos­pi­tal are just 46pc. Af­ter a mother leaves hos­pi­tal, there is a large drop off.

Ac­cord­ing to statis­tics from 2013, just 15pc of Ir­ish ba­bies are ex­clu­sively breast­fed for the first six months, which when com­pared to the global av­er­age of 38pc is wor­ry­ing. Breast­feed­ing gives a child the op­ti­mum start in life. If Ire­land was to im­prove its rates, re­search sug­gests this will lead to re­duc­tions in child­hood obe­sity and chronic dis­eases.

For ex­am­ple, breast­feed­ing may pro­tect the mother from de­vel­op­ing breast and ovar­ian can­cer as well as rheuma­toid arthri­tis. Breast­ing feed­ing may pro­tect the baby from de­vel­op­ing coeliac and Crohn’s dis­ease, high blood pres­sure and high choles­terol as well as re­duce the risk of di­a­betes, asthma and al­lergy.

At about six months of age, a baby starts wean­ing on solids. At this age they’ll be

phys­i­cally able to start eat­ing, be able to sit up, have stronger im­mune sys­tems and be able to teach them­selves to move food around their mouth and chew it. This is a grad­ual process, start­ing with puréed bland food, with a fo­cus on plants and specif­i­cally veg­eta­bles. As time goes on, they will progress to lumpier tex­tures and stronger tastes. A pri­or­ity dur­ing the wean­ing process is to in­tro­duce your baby to as many new foods as pos­si­ble.

How­ever, cer­tain foods need to be avoided at this time. For ex­am­ple, raw eggs, un­pas­teur­ized cheese, bran, whole or chopped nuts, high mer­cury fish such as sword­fish, honey, salt, added sugar and pro­cessed meats. There are other foods that need more fo­cus as they pro­vide the baby with crit­i­cal nu­tri­ents dur­ing this par­tic­u­lar stage in life.

Nu­tri­ents to fo­cus on dur­ing wean­ing:

IRON: By six months of age, an in­fant’s store of iron, pro­vided by the mother dur­ing preg­nancy, is de­pleted. Rich iron sources are crit­i­cal dur­ing the wean­ing process to pre­vent anaemia and op­ti­mis­ing growth and devel­op­ment. Suit­able sources of iron in­clude beef, pork, lamb, poul­try, well-cooked eggs, peas, beans, lentils and leafy green veg­eta­bles. › VI­TA­MIN D: By six months of age, an in­fant’s stores of nu­tri­ents such as vi­ta­min D are de­creas­ing. Vi­ta­min D has many func­tions within the body.

How­ever, it plays a cru­cial role in bone health. Due to their rapid growth rates, Ir­ish ba­bies should be given a vi­ta­min D sup­ple­ment pro­vid­ing 50g or 200IU of vi­ta­min D from birth to 12 months.

› DHA: Con­sum­ing enough foods rich in Omega-3 fats par­tic­u­larly do­cosa­hex­aenoic acid (DHA) is im­por­tant for the brain and eye devel­op­ment of in­fants. Dur­ing wean­ing, an in­fant’s DHA lev­els can drop due to lower lev­els of DHA com­monly found in the wean­ing diet. In­fants be­tween the ages of seven to 12 months should con­sume 100mg of DHA per day or 700mg of DHA per week. This can be met by of­fer­ing oily fish once or twice a week such as salmon, trout, her­ring, mack­erel and sar­dines.

Breast­feed­ing is best sourceof nu­tri­tion

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