Eating well is more than just ensuring junior eats his greens and drinks lots of water. There’s also a philosophy behind it — food can be organic, locally produced, vegan or vegetarian in nature.
But how does that translate to your baby’s diet? This might be a good time to take a look at how you eat, too!
Dr Rana Conway, a public health nutritionist and author of Weaning Made Easy, recommends that you give your baby as many tastes and textures as you can by the time she’s 1. She also encourages eating together as a family since this leads to a healthier relationship with food in the long run. Now, you’ve just got to choose the diet you’re most comfortable with…
What is it? You can use any method (purées or baby-led) to feed your baby as long as the food is organic — at least 95 per cent of its ingredients must be from organically produced plants and animals.
Pros: Restricts use of artiﬁcial chemical fertilisers and pesticide and bans the use of additives, such as colourings, sweeteners, trans fats and aspartame.
Cons: Although pesticide levels are lower, there’s no evidence organic food is nutritionally superior. Not all additives are bad and it’s deﬁnitely more expensive. This diet also has missing ingredients. For example, organic breakfast cereals aren’t fortiﬁed with extra vitamins.
Try it if: You don’t mind the cost and would prefer your baby to not be exposed to chemicals and additives.
The veggie approach
What is it? Just like for adults, a baby’s vegetarian diet doesn’t include any meat, poultry, ﬁsh or seafood.
Pros: Although this diet is meatless, it has been medically proven to provide all the nutrients a growing infant needs. Also, no animals are harmed in the preparation process.
Cons: All that vegetable ﬁbre can lead to a lower calorie intake and reduced mineral absorption, so you need to spend more time planning your meals. You’ll also need to choose a good variety of proteins to replace meat, such as dairy and soy products including tofu, eggs, beans, pulses, ground nuts and seeds. Make sure your baby gets lots of iron from dark-green leafy veg and fortiﬁed cereals. Vitamin C helps your baby absorb iron, so always offer oranges or kiwifruit with her meal. It’s also a good idea to give her daily vitamin A, C and D drops.
Try it if: Vegetarianism is important to you and if you have the time to commit to planning a nutritionally balanced diet for your child.
The vegan approach
What is it? Vegans eat a plant-based diet, so your baby will be on a veggie diet, minus eggs and dairy.
Pros: Since it’s often high in fruit, veg and wholegrains and low in saturated fat, this diet meets many healthy-eating recommendations, according to the Vegan Society. Follow a vegetarian plan and include fortiﬁed soya products as dairy alternatives, as well as fortiﬁed cereals.
Cons: Since vegans eat no eggs or dairy, they’re at greater risk of iron, calcium, as well as vitamins D and B12 deﬁciencies. So, you must be extra vigilant that your baby is getting all her nutrients. Visit a dietitian for weaning advice and ask about supplementing her diet with vitamins B12, A, C and D. Visit your paediatrician regularly to monitor your baby’s growth.
Try it if: You’re committed to the cause and willing to pay for professional help.
What is it? Feeding your baby commercially-produced food in packets, jars and pouches.
Pros: Because there are tight controls on all baby food, you can rest assured that your baby is getting the nutrients she needs with no unwanted additives, like salt. When you’re on the go, pre-prepared food is a life-saver and also gives you a break from cooking.
Cons: If you only use pre-prepared jars and pouches, your tot isn’t getting used to what your family eats. Your baby is also not getting the chance to taste different foods.
Try it if: You need a convenient option for busy times.
What is it? The antithesis to our fast-food generation, this way of eating aims to encourage greater enjoyment of food through eating seasonally, shopping locally and understanding how food is produced.
Pros: Children who are fed homemade meals accept a wider range of foods, particularly fruit and vegetables, by the age of 7,” explains dietitian Sasha Watkins. And because you eat seasonally, your baby will be exposed to a greater variety of fruits and vegetables, all year round.
Cons: Singapore’s climate and space constraints mean that it’s not possible to eat seasonally or grow your own food. It’s also time-consuming to cook everything from scratch, all the time.
Try it if: You want to minimise your impact on the environment and help your child engage with food.