What are healthy food for babies? Read this article if you want the best from the Danish general nitrutional guidelines.
It is important for everyone – small children as well – to eat a balanced diet. This is because all the vitamins, minerals, and other substances we need are available in very varied amounts in different foods. By eating a little bit of everything, you have the best chance of getting your needs met. You can only call your diet balanced when you switch between different foods within each of these four groups:
- Bread, grains, potatoes, rice, pasta
Serve different types of bread and switch between rye and wheat bread. Serve potatoes almost every day, as they contribute several important nutrients. During the transition, potatoes are part of the mashed dinners. For older children, potatoes are part of dinner, cut into bite-sized pieces. It is preferable to serve boiled potatoes rather than fried, or potatoes cooked with cream or cheese. Switch it up once in a while with wholegrain pasta or brown rice as part of a hot meal.
- Fruits, vegetables
Offer many different types of fruits and vegetables in many different ways, so the child becomes familiar with the different tastes. Use even those you yourself may not like as much.
- Meat, fish, milk, cheese, eggs
Lunch and dinner should feature either meat or fish for a sufficiently iron-rich diet. Switch between different types of meat and between different fatty and lean types of fish. Eggs and boiled, dried beans (and other dried legumes) can be part of a varied diet from 6 months of age. Cheese can also be part of the child’s food, but only in small amounts. You can’t serve sour milk products until the child is 9 months old.
Children who eat a vegetarian diet and who continue to be breastfed during the transition should take an iron supplement in drop form, about 8 mg a day until age 1.
- A bit of fat
A bit of fat, such as butter, or healthy oil, is also part of a balanced diet, but here the amounts are small compared to other food groups. Vary your fats, but most should be vegetable types such as olive oil, canola oil, avocato oil or walnut oil.
How much the child eats depends on his or her age, body size, and activity level. Respect that it is up to the child to decide whether they is hungry and how much they wants to eat.
It is important for the child to have opportunities to be active. Very young children need to spend time on a blanket on the floor, rolling around and practicing crawling. They need opportunities to practice standing and walking. They should practice jumping into the laps of adults and they should spend time playing in the fresh air. Allow slightly older children to walk to and from the car, the bike, and the stroller, when you pick them up at day care. Allow movement to be part of your daily lives. This is especially important for slightly older children. Choose games with movement – both inside and out. It builds good habits.
Eat fruit and plenty of vegetables
Small children must eat fruit and veggies every day, but not in the same quantities as older children and adults. Offer fruit and veggies with most meals of the day, and switch between different types. Choose seasonal fruits and veggies – they are cheaper, and they often offer the best quality.
Hard vegetables should first be boiled, shredded, or finely chopped – e.g. carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and brussels sprouts. Soft vegetables can be served raw – such as peas, corn, peeled tomatoes cut into small pieces, peeled cucumber, grapes cut the long way, and avocado.
Many young children get enough fruit, while they have a harder time with vegetables, especially the firm ones. By serving many different kinds of vegetables and fruit, you will probably also prevent your child from becoming finicky. Remember that you should also offer things you might not like very much, so your child has the opportunity to try everything.
Vegetables and fruits contain many of the minerals and vitamins needed to keep the body healthy and well. Furthermore, vegetables and fruit contain relatively few calories, and especially the coarser vegetables, such as peas, onions, broccoli, root vegetables, and cabbage, contain a lot of dietary fiber.
Puréed vegetables and puréed fruit are part of the transition period. Once the child starts to eat food with the rest of the family, make sure you continue to serve the child a variety of fruits and veggies.
Eat more fish
(but hold off on certain types)
As with older children and adults, you will want to offer the child fish twice a week as a main dish or several times a week in sandwiches. This could be more often, if you really like fish. It is important to offer the child fish, even if you are not fond of fish personally.
Serve a variety of fish. Eat both fatty fish like salmon, herring, and mackerel − and lean fish like cod, pollock, and plaice. We recommend that you don’t give the child canned tuna until after the age of 3, and no more than one regular-sized can of tuna each week. Avoid cans with white tuna or albacore tuna. Tuna steaks and other large predatory fish should not be given to children younger than 14.
Fish contain a lot of important nutrients, such as fatty acids which are important for brain development.
Choose whole grains
(but also other cereal products for young children)
About half of the child’s bread and cereal should be whole grain (preferably rye bread and oatmeal). The remainder can be a variety of other wholegrain breads and finer white bread.
Always choose bread that ‘sticks to your ribs’, i.e. bread that weighs heavy in your hand. However, small children should not eat bread with visible whole or half grains.
Small children benefit from foods high in fiber like oatmeal or rye bread porridge, fruit and veggies, and various kinds of rye bread and whole-wheat bread. But the dietary fiber content shouldn’t be as high as for adults, as the food will fill the stomach to a point where it may be difficult for the child to eat enough food to meet his or her energy requirements.
Keep in mind that the child should not eat rice or rice products every day because of the arsenic content.
Choose lean meats and lunchmeats
(but also higher-fat options for young children)
Let the child join the family in eating food with lean meat incorporated. Meat contains proteins, minerals, and iron. When you choose lean meat, you get the great nutrients from the meat, but less saturated fat. Therefore, choose meat and meat products with no more than 10% fat.
Children under 2 years of age need a little more dietary fat than older children and adults, however. Therefore, you can switch in some slightly fattier meat products for the child, such as braunschweiger. Remember to vary the ways you prepare the meat, and keep in mind that it shouldn’t be fried or grilled until it has a dark crust.
Choose lean dairy products
(but not until 2 years of age)
Small children need slightly higher fat content in dairy products than older children and adults. Choose the type and amount appropriate for the child’s age.
Dairy products contain both protein and many different vitamins and minerals. Among other things, they are important sources for dietary calcium. But dairy products also contain saturated fat. When you choose the lean varieties of dairy products over the high-fat ones, you benefit from great nutrients while getting less saturated fat.
Eat less saturated fat
Saturated fat is found especially in butter and margarine, milk, cheese, and meat.
For children under the age of 2 − and especially under the age of 1 – fat shouldn’t be limited in the same way it should for others. To ensure normal growth in the child, the following is recommended for the first year of life:
- adding fats and formula to homemade porridge and puréed vegetables
- giving milk with a high fat content, such as breastmilk and formula.
It is best if the fat in porridge and purée isn’t always butter, since the child already receives quite a bit of this type of fat through breastmilk. Provide variety with other butter-type products, as well as plant oils like corn oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, and olive oil.
Reduce the family’s overall consumption of saturated fat – including for small children older than 1 year. Therefore, you should primarily choose plant oils, such as canola oil and olive oil, and liquid margarine, and only occationally butter or regular margarine.
Older children and adults should spread fats sparingly or not use them on bread at all. Small children should have fat on their bread or in sandwich spreads, especially while the child is less than a year old. Fry meat and vegetables in oil rather than butter, and discard pan drippings. Dietary fat contributes to providing the body with vital fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins. But too much saturated fat is unhealthy in the long term.
Eat food with less salt
You should use salt sparingly in the family’s food.
In the baby’s food in particular, the salt content must be limited, because the child’s kidneys are not fully developed at birth. Besides, you won’t want the child to develop a preference for foods that taste salty. Don’t add salt to the first foods the child gets. Once the child is a little older, they can eat the family’s food, as long as vegetables and the rest of the food are just lightly salted.
Once the child starts to eat the family’s food, they, like the rest of the family, will get most salt from products like bread, lunchmeat, cheese, fast food, and TV-dinners.
Buy foods with less salt, look for the keyhole label, check the labels, and choose the product with the least amount of salt. Cut back on salt in your cooking by tasting the food before salting. Use leftovers from dinner in sandwiches the following day, that way you avoid the salt in storebought lunchmeats. Don’t put salt on the table – to avoid salting your food just out of habit.
When the family eats less salt, you can lower blood pressures and prevent cardio-vascular disorders
Eat less sugar
Candy, ice cream, Cool-Aid, and soda pop contain a lot of sugar and no nutrients.
Getting too many sweets reduces the possibility of getting enough vitamins and minerals and other substances contained in foods. Furthermore, sugary drinks increase the risk of obesity and cavities.
Cookies – including sandwich cookies, chocolate wafers, etc. – as well as certain yogurts with fruit and fruit quark for children contain a lot of sugar when compared to other ingredients, and they should be considered cakes or candy. The same is true for very sugary breakfast cereals.
A little sugar on things like oatmeal or in puréed fruit can be a good idea if it facilitates the child eating the oatmeal or the fruit. This does not apply to off-the-shelf porridge products, however, as these are already very sweet.
Teach the child to quench his or her thirst with water from very young. Drink water instead of things like soda, juice, and Cool-Aid.
Water from the faucet is fine, but let the faucet run for a little bit before filling the cup. In Denmark, water from the faucet is clean.
The body needs water for optimal function. Water covers the need for liquids without contributing unnecessary calories.
Artificially sweetened drinks can damage teeth with acid, as can sugary drinks, and artificially sweetened products may contribute to destroying the natural appetite regulation by making us used to everything having to taste sweet. Therefore, artificially sweetened drinks are not an equal alternative to clean, cold water.