My last post was about diversifying your baby’s meals. Serving a variety of foods to your infant ensures that your baby is getting good nourishment.
According to the 2013 National Demographic Health Survey, only 10% of children between the ages of 6 months and 23 months in Nigeria consume milk products, have minimum diet diversity ( which is at least 4 out of the groups I mentioned in my last post on Food Variety) and the minimum meal frequency (I will focus on this in another post).
Is your child among the 10%?
Putting diversity into meals is a habit that a caregiver should develop. It would become a part of you and become so easily done that you would minimize the effort and time you put into it.
There are some factors that can interfere with diversifying your baby’s meals:
- What you know about Diversity or variety of meals
When looking at diversity of meals, knowledge is very important. You need to know what your options are and what you want to achieve. An example is your knowledge of fresh foods and processed foods. The food group I posted about food variety mentions e.g. grains. Brown rice in the raw food stand falls under this category as well as spaghetti and noodles.
Fresh foods would always be the gold standard of food item choices over highly processed foods any day any time. However, sometimes, the way fresh foods are handled, they lose many nutrients before they reach the consumers. It is good to always opt out for wholesome foods that have not been under the open sun for too long, overly damaged by insects or that have been bruised terribly.
There are some processed foods, not the highly processed ones, that are have not been stripped completely of nutrients they contain. Some examples would be yam flour, and beans flour. Although some of these packaged products have been processed, they still contain a good amount of nutrients that have been in it. The highly processed foods are usually stripped of nutrients and in some cases the nutrients are then added back in form of enrichment and fortification.
If you want to spot highly processed foods, they are the products that usually have very long shelf life (expiry date). These products have been totally modified from their original states and are usually not dense with nutrients (contain multiple nutrients).
Your knowledge of cooking and its effect also has a role to play in how diversified your infants diet is.
The way you cook can enhance or reduce the nutrient composition of many foods. For example, If you boil your leafy veggies, many of the vitamins they carry would be lost before it can reach your baby’s mouth as opposed to blanching, another method of cooking which minimizes nutrient loss if done correctly. Another example is the legume like soybeans. It contains antinutrients which must be reduced greatly if you want to get all the beautiful benefits in it. If you decide to process it yourself, are you doing it well enough to remove the antinutritional factors (chemicals that make the nutrients unavailable to the body) in it? From research, properly cooking soybeans reduces these antinutrients in it. Other methods like soaking, sprouting, and fermentation also reduce them significantly.
So, when making your baby’s food, delicate food items like vegetables should be handled minimally and under short duration to reduce nutrient loss. Many fresh fruits do not require cooking. They can be mashed and pureed for your children.
- Access to variety of foods
One of the major issues why many mothers do not take the time to diversify their diet is because of TIME. Working mothers need to be on the move. For people like this, foods that are easy to prepare and package are what they usually go for. It would not be hard to find a busy mother or caregiver who throws noodles in the pot and an egg to boil. The time it takes to prepare a breakfast of boiled potatoes with some veggie stir fry and fish cannot be compared to that of a 3 minute noodles; which is one of the selling points of this product. When you are trying to diversify your baby’s meals, you would discover some activities that you can do to save you time. For example, blanching your carrots and green peas and freezing them is a way to have these vegetables available to you when you do not have time to always purchase fresh fruits. Cooking meals in batches over the weekend and freezing is another way to have nutritious meals all week. Of course this depends on your access to electricity.
Another issue is MONEY. If you are strapped for cash or not buoyant at the moment, it does not mean that you cannot still cook diverse and nutrient dense meals. What you need to do is look out for alternatives to some of the foods you would love to purchase. E.g. if beef is expensive at the moment, nothing stops you from using some dried shrimps (commonly called crayfish)or even using peanuts in some of the meals that you prepare. The amount of money you would spend on a peanut soup will be not as much as that of a beef stew and you would get lots of nutrients from both. Being innovative is very important when you do not have the finances.
- How well your child eats
Some children just do not like to accept these foods. Many mothers do try but their young ones would just not open their mouth after all the effort. The tendency is for such mothers to stop trying. Please do not give up. Creativity is important here. There are babies that would take foods as purees while others want whole food like their parents. If your child likes to drink more than eat all these foods, then try to make nutritious soups out of some of the foods items.
I am very aware that some children would fall your hand no matter what you do. A trip to the Dietitian can also help. They attend to some of these issues often and as a result have the experience and creative ideas on what else you can do. Where can you find a Dietitian? Many government hospitals in Nigeria especially Lagos have one. You can take a quick drive to Massey Street children’s hospital, LASUTH, LUTH, General Hospital Lagos, General Hospital Ifako-ijaiye, etc. Some Primary health care centres also have experienced staff who can advise you.
These are things to ponder on. I hope that they are helpful as you make the effort for your child.