One of the food groups to easily overlook when giving infants and toddlers their meal is the fruit group. Caregivers usually start out by giving infants cereals when they come of age to eat other foods. Other food groups are usually considered first and once the meals are planned, fruits become an add-on or an occasional treat for some.
Fruits contain some natural sugars and fibres, many vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other beneficial components that help to maintain their bodies, important in the quick healing of some injuries, generally improve immune systems and prevent diseases of the heart and other chronic diseases. For me, I say to you “Let fruits and vegetables be your Agbo and concoctions; your natural medicine and you would reduce your probability of consuming synthetic medicine.”
Infants and Toddlers must not be excluded from eating fruits. They need the nutrients and components in fruits to meet their own body requirements for them.
Here are some ways to incorporate fruits into your infant and toddlers meal are:
- Give fruits a slot on their meal timetable
If you have a meal timetable for your children, and I encourage you to have one, you can make a meal out of fruits and vegetables for one of the meals especially for infants and younger toddlers.This way, consumption of Fruits is certain. An example is including fruity smoothies with a main meal or make the Fruity smoothies the meal but ensure that it contains all the necessary nutrients for a main meal. Having banana, peanuts, incorporated into a smoothie would add good fat, protein, natural sugar, fibre, vitamins and minerals. It is tasty and your infant is sure to love this.
- Incorporate fruits into their other meals
There are different cereals that you can add some fruits pieces into. Fruit pieces still have their fibre and their nutrients. Some countries have perfect the art of manufacturing wholesome dried fruits and you if have access to these you can use them but of course fresh fruits are always better. You can also mash fruits to some of the porridges and pottages. E.g. You can add Banana or pawpaw to beans porridge or make plantain pottage and add mango or banana to it.
- Package fruit as snack
Fruits as a whole are a good replacement for the regular biscuits they take to school as snacks especially for the older toddler. For younger toddlers and infants, you can have soft pieces of fruits, fruit purees and make fruit lollipops as snacks.
- Hide the fruits
This is important for those children who do not like to eat. You can try to hide fruits in other foods they love. They do not see it but can taste it. You can hide it in their milk by blending it smooth into it. Their cereals like pap, maize and soya cereals and so on are excellent carriers for the fruits. Look around you for practical ways to blend it into their foods without making it messy or horrible. I know that some mothers have tried many ways and nothing has worked for them so far, my advice to them is ‘Don’t give up.’
I encourage schools to get children to eat healthily by teaching them about foods and the goodness they contain; our indigenous foods and fruits should be included. During food breaks, communal eating of fruits also work wonders for those children who do not eat fruits at home. This truly works, I have seen it work and I really commend those schools that go the extra mile to build up their children in every way they can.
Note: Groundnuts can cause allergies so please be careful when introducing them to infants.