• The release of energy from foods
• The use of energy by muscles and other organs
• Protection of cells and tissues from the oxidative effects of free radicals (see ‘Antioxidants’)
You’ll find a healthy balanced diet contains everything your little one needs. One way to do this is to give them a daily diet made up of all the colours of the rainbow – yellow for starchy foods, brown for meats and/or legumes (beans and lentils) and reds, greens, yellows, purples and oranges for vegetables and fruit.
If your baby is exclusively or even partially breast-fed, Health Canada recommends that they should have a daily Vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms. Please ask your health professional or pharmacist for advice.
Vitamin A helps build strong bones and teeth, supports night vision and aids healthy skin.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) releases energy from carbohydrate and aids normal growth.
Vitamins B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin) and B6 helps energy, metabolism and the formation of tissue.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects against the damage of free radicals, it also plays a part in building teeth, bones, cartilage and gums.
Vitamin D improves calcium and phosphorus absorption and helps build and maintain strong bones and teeth.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps to protect the fat in body tissues from oxidation.
Free radicals are unstable by-products of the chemical reactions in our body. They are a bit like little black spots which ping around the body causing damage to the surface of cells, proteins and DNA. Antioxidants are vitamins (Vitamin A, C, E) sometimes known as ACE and are the body’s superheroes – fighting the black dots.
Minerals and why your baby needs them
Minerals are split into two types, ones that we need in tiny amounts (trace elements) and ones that we need more of. Examples of trace elements are iron, zinc and selenium. The ones we need more of include calcium, phosphorus and sodium.
Minerals have lots of different functions in the body.
Calcium & Phosphorous help build and maintain bones and teeth
Iron helps build red blood cells (see Why your baby needs iron in the nutrition section of Up to 6 months)
Zinc is a factor in energy metabolism and tissue formation
Selenium helps protect against oxidative stress
Magnesium aids in energy metabolism, tissue formation and bone development
The mineral has important functions within the body:
• Maintains fluid balance and, as a result, helps to maintain blood pressure
• Aids nerve and muscle function
• Helps keep the pH of the blood within the normal limits
• Plays a role in carbohydrate metabolism
Breast milk and sodium
Breast milk contains approximately 138 mg of sodium per litre. Infant formula regulations stipulate the range of sodium permitted. Formulas for newborns have sodium content similar to breast milk.
Infants receive enough sodium from breast milk and infant formula without the addition of salt. With the introduction of solids, the intake of sodium can rise considerably. The increase tends to be lower for those fed commercial infant foods where the sodium content is regulated.
Salt and your baby's diet
Salt should never be added to an infant's diets. Infants have a limited ability to excrete excessive sodium which can result in hypernatremia or dehydration.
This is the critical time when children develop preferences for foods and form lifelong eating habits. So, be sure to offer a healthy balance of food from the basic food groups recommended in Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating. Not all meals require foods from each group - but there should be a balance.
Move to More Textured Foods
Chewing is an acquired skill and textured foods are important for teething. If children don't have the opportunity to learn how to chew, they may have trouble eating anything but pureed foods later on.
Around eight months is the usual time to introduce chunkier baby foods. Heinz® Stage 3 foods (From 8 months) contain pieces large enough to encourage your baby to chew, while still being safe to swallow whole and offering a variety of tastes and textures for the developing palate.
If you are giving your baby mashed or chopped table foods, prepare them from the freshest ingredients, without added salt, sugar or strong spices.
Introduce A Variety Of Tastes And Textures
Helping Your Baby Self-Feed
As babies develop a growing sense of independence, they are ready to experiment with feeding themselves. Sometime between eight months and a year, you can start introducing finger foods.
Remember that your baby is still an inexperienced eater and must be supervised carefully during this stage.
Babies making the transition from baby food to table food are going to want to learn as much as possible about the textures and tastes of the various surprises you offer, so be patient.
Finger Food Guideline
Certain popular foods are safe and healthy for your baby and some should be avoided as they offer little nutritional value or could cause choking. Here's a guideline that should help you select what's best.
Safe And Healthy Foods
These foods are healthy and safe to offer your baby as finger foods at this stage:
• Cooked soft vegetable pieces
• Pieces of banana, seeded melon and other soft, ripe fruits
• Bits of cooked fruit
• Small pieces of cooked meat and poultry (de-boned)
• Pieces of cheese (after eight months)
• Soft crust, toast or unsalted soda crackers
• Baby biscuits and cereal bars
• Small, soft cooked pasta
Empty Calorie Foods
The foods below do not offer your child adequate nutrition and may encourage some unhealthy preferences as they may contain too much added fat, sugar or salt. Avoid the early introduction of:
• Fried foods such as French fries or home fries
• Iced cakes or iced cookies, sugar-coated cereal
• Chocolate bars or candy
• Potato chips and other salted snack foods
• Processed meats such as bologna or spam
Even under your watchful eye, your baby should not be offered any of the following foods, which can cause choking:
• Raw, hard fruit and vegetables
• Fruit with seeds or pits such as cherries
• Dried fruit, except raisins that are small and seedless
• Hot dogs
• Nuts & seeds
• Whole grapes
• Small candies that can get stuck in the airway
• White – cereals including wheat, starches, potatoes, pasta, turnips
• Yellow – butternut squash, pumpkin, corn
• Orange – papaya, mango, sweet potatoes
• Pink – tuna, salmon, watermelon
• Red – red pepper, tomato
• Green – zucchini, broccoli, asparagus, peas
• Purple – beetroot, prunes
• Brown – meat, chicken, legumes or beans
What Does My Baby Need?
Babies are growing fast and need foods that are a good source of calories (energy). Advice for older children and adults to eat a low-fat diet doesn't apply to babies. That's why low-fat versions of foods are not suitable for weaning, i.e. low fat milk and yogurt.
Lots of protein is needed for babies to grow as they should. The best sources of good quality protein are meat, fish, eggs, and cheese. Vegetable protein is not as complete and, if you don't include meat in your baby’s diet, care needs to be taken to combine foods to give the right blend of protein.
Foods that are a good source of Vitamin C should be included. Note also that Vitamin D is made by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Your healthcare professional will advise you about vitamin supplements, if required.
Iron and Calcium are particularly important at this stage of your baby's development.
The Importance of Iron
By six months your baby's natural store of iron will have been used up and so an important part of weaning is to introduce iron-rich foods such as cereals, meats and fortified baby foods. Offering drinks or food containing Vitamin C at the same meal as iron-containing foods will help with the absorption of iron.
Iron is vital to your baby's wellbeing and essential for healthy blood, growth and development. In fact, because your baby’s growing so fast, they need more iron as a baby and toddler than at any other time in life, so it is very important that their food and drink provide an adequate supply of iron.