I believe that optimal nutrition is essential in maintaining optimal health. It is vital to our lives, as our bodies have been completely built and maintained by the foods we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. We are totally dependent upon these foods as they are the starter molecules for all the biochemical activities that take place within the body – i.e. – running. breathing, thinking, digesting 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 major role in our healthcare system. A time will come when nutrition will have to be considered as a factor in all disease and a time when natural supplements will replace many drugs. Hopefully, in the future, every baby will have his or her own individualised nutrition programme, based on biochemical individuality. This would help to establish the optimal health possible for the genetic disposition of the baby, and prevent future degenerative disease.

Until then, it should be our responsibility to make sure that our babies are given the best possible nutritional start in life - at least a year of optimal eating for the mother-to-be before conception is envisaged whenever possible. I have outlined below some quality nutritional guidelines for weaning and a menu plan for a ten-month-old baby on a mixed diet.

Breast-feeding is the finest nutritional support for a baby if the mother has been following an optimal nutrition programme, which would have been based on un-processed, high-fibre foodstuffs that do not contain additives, preservatives or colouring agents. It should also avoid sugar, processed salt and saturated fats.

Weaning a baby is the best time to establish good eating habits, with initial introduction to solids when the baby seems dissatisfied with breast or formula milk. This usually coincides with teething at approximately six months of age. As the baby’s digestive system is immature, an earlier introduction to solids may promote allergic reactions. At first the baby may like to have the solid food mixed with breast/formula milk for a familiar taste.

As the baby will be receiving most of the protein, carbohydrate and fat from the milk, it is wise to introduce vegetables and fruit, preferably from an organic source, as these are packed with vitamins and minerals. Other foods can be introduced in the following order – rice, millet, tofu, soy yoghurt, pulses and beans, oats, barley and rye, nuts and seeds, fish and then at about ten to twelve months - meat, oranges, wheat and cow’s milk products and egg. These last five can be responsible for setting up ‘an allergy picture’ – so care is required on an individual basis. Egg white should not be fed until baby is a year old.

Vegetables can be 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, hummus and cereal flours. When baby is teething, celery and carrot sticks (under supervision) 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, etc.

Cereals are a good source of energy and contain the important complex of B vitamins. Ensure these cereals are unprocessed. These grains will need to be in the form of flakes or flour. They 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 tenth month. Use a variety of oily and white fish and white meats, grilled or oven-baked and served minced or 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 and essential fats. 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 and creamy.

Beans and lentils are protein foods when combined with grains. They can be cooked, 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. (Nowadays it is important to only use an organic variety, because of the genetic modification of all commercial tofu – and soy products generally).

Baby will require lots of bottled or filtered water during the weaning process and once weaned, it is not essential to include large amounts of cow’s milk. It may not be beneficial to the baby as it contains high amounts of calcium and only small amounts of magnesium and is deficient in certain minerals required by the body to lay the calcium in bones and teeth. It is highly mucus-forming – potentially provoking an allergic response. Nut milks, soya, rice and oatmilk can be substituted. Fresh fruit and vegetable juices, diluted with four parts of water to one part juice are excellent choices.

Daily menu for a ten-month-old baby on a mixed diet.

Choose a food from each of the following groups:-

  • Dairy products and eggs – no more than three eggs per week
  • Meat or fish/beans/peas and lentils/nuts and seeds
  • Two ounces of any of these foods will be adequate
  • Cereals – a two-ounce 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 two pieces
  • Essential fats – one teaspoon of cold-pressed sunflower, safflower oil – or equivalent in ground seeds/nuts and two portions of oily fish a week
  • Drinks – Bottled or filtered water plus diluted vegetable and fruit juices

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