Although milk provides most of your baby’s nutrients for the first year, it’s important to choose the healthiest foods and drinks for him. His stomach is small, and every mouthful should add to his nutrient intake. Like adults, he needs a healthy balanced diet, even when he is eating only one or two meals a day. Your baby will begin with only a few tastes at each mealtime. By seven months, he should be eating three small meals a day, with food from each of the food groups below. Until he is a year old, he still needs about 20 fl oz (600ml) of breast milk or formula, but he will get this in fewer feedings.
Overall nutrition Don’t worry too much if your baby doesn’t get a little of every food group in each sitting. It’s more important to look at the overall picture - as long as he is getting a few servings of everything throughout the day, he’ll be doing well. As he heads toward two or three full meals a day, make sure that he gets at least a spoonful of fruit and vegetables, a carbohydrate (such as pasta, potato, or baby rice), some protein (in the form of some lentils, soy, meat, fish, dairy) and some healthy fats, also contained in dairy produce, eggs, nut butters, ground seeds, and meat. Variety is more important than quantity in a healthy balanced diet.
Carbohydrates These provide the energy to grow and develop. Complex carbohydrates, which are unrefined, such as whole-grain cereals, breads, brown rice, and pasta, and fruit and vegetables are the healthiest carbohydrates for your baby and will provide him with plenty of fiber, a little protein, as well as vitamins and minerals. Most importantly in a healthy balanced diet, they provide a sustained source of energy.
Fats These are essential for babies, and required for many body functions, including the nervous system. More than 50 percent of the calories in breast milk come from fat, of which the most important type is EFAs, or essential fatty acids. These are found in oily fish, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, and avocados, as well as some grains, such as quinoa. These are important for growth, development, behavior, and the ability to learn. Avoid hydrogenated trans fats.
Saturated fats, which are found in whole milk dairy and meat, have been linked with health problems, such as cardiovascular disease; however, your baby does need them in small quantities.
Proteins Fish, lean meats, legumes (such as lentils, beans, peas, and chickpeas), soy, dairy, eggs, whole grains, and chicken, all contain protein, which provides your baby’s body with the tools he needs to grow and develop. He’ll need several servings of good-quality protein each day to meet a healthy balanced diet.
Fiber One of the food groups that play an important role in healthy balanced diet is fiber. This is found in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, and it has a host of roles in your baby’s body, including ensuring healthy digestion and bowel movements, stimulating saliva to protect his teeth, and encouraging the absorption of nutrients from the food your baby eats.
Vitamins and minerals Your baby needs all the vitamins and minerals found in a healthy balanced diet that includes protein, complex carbohydrates, good-quality fats, and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Iron is especially important for your baby’s development and growth. This key mineral is found in dried fruits, meat, leafy-green vegetables, legumes, and iron-fortified cereals. Also important is vitamin C, found in most fruits and vegetables. This is required for your baby’s overall health and, in particular, his immune system, bones, and skin. It’s also necessary for iron to be absorbed.
Vitamin D, needed for bones and teeth, is in eggs, oily fish, and dairy.
Finally, your baby needs calcium for healthy bones and teeth, and other body functions. This is found in leafy green vegetables, dairy, sesame seeds, almonds, and soy.
Every other vitamin and mineral is required, too, so ensure that your baby’s diet is healthy balanced.