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Best Foods for Kids to Boost Nutrition

Get to know these ingredients better and learn how you can excite your little one’s taste buds with our expert tips.

Our Experts:

Dr Ruth Chan – research assistant professor at The Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Department of Medicine and Therapeutics.

Fiona Chia – nutritionist and founder of Health Can Be Fun consultancy firm.

Kaira Goh – dietitian and assistant medical marketing and affairs manager at Danone Dumex, a milk company.



Why it’s good – Rice cereal or porridge for Baby again? No wonder she is bored and restless during mealtimes. Try millet, a healthier and interesting alternative, says Kaira. Like rice, this wholegrain is easy to digest and unlikely to cause allergic reactions. But it is richer in B vitamins and fibre. The mildly nutty grain is also free of gluten. Offer this to your baby when she’s ready for her first taste of solids, typically around six months old.

How to cook it – Lightly toast the millet before grinding into a powder. When your little one gets used to chewing and swallowing, you can feed it to her whole. Soak the grains overnight to speed up the cooking process, shares Dr Chan, and simmer as you would for rice until soft.



Why it’s good – This is a staple in African and South American diets. Packed with eight amino acids, it’s considered a complete protein – half a cup of this ancient grain meets your young child’s daily protein needs, says Fiona. Good from eight months old.

How to cook it – Start by mixing her regular formula milk or breast milk with quinoa. This helps her get used to the taste and texture, says Kaira. Over time, simply add quinoa to soups and pureed vegetables for extra oomph.



Why it’s good – It’s wise to avoid adding salt and sugar to your baby’s diet. But mild spices, such as cinnamon, coriander, cumin and turmeric, are healthy ingredients that will make bland food exciting, says Dr Chan. According to the Manual of Dietetic Practice published by the British Dietetic Association, babies can be introduced to pinches of cinnamon from as early as six months.

How to cook it – Add it in small amounts to purees. As with other new ingredients, wait three to four days between feeds to see if she develops allergic reactions.



Why it’s good – Healthy homemade food can be bland and repetitive. But herbs, such as basil, are a wonderful way to expand Baby’s taste buds, says Fiona. Besides having anti-bacterial properties, it is also loaded with vitamin K, which helps with blood clotting and bowel issues for sensitive stomachs. Good from 11 months old.

How to cook it – Add it to the tomato sauce for her pasta, or try cooking it with basil.



Why they’re good – If you’re worried that your little one is not consuming enough meat, fish or other iron-rich food, add this to her diet. This is a rich source of iron, which is essential for making red blood cells. Since plant-based foods are less easily absorbed by the body compared to animal sources, Dr Chan recommends pairing black beans with vitamin C-rich food such as oranges and broccoli. This combination helps improve iron absorption.

How to cook them – Fiona stresses the importance of well-prepared legumes. “Black beans should be given to your baby only when cooked properly to ensure toxins are removed,” she reminds. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and add the beans for 10 minutes. Discard the water before adding the beans to stews or mashing them with sweet potatoes.



Why it’s good – This is widely used in an array of Italian dishes for babies and toddlers. It is an excellent source of vitamin C, B6, B1 and manganese, selenium, potassium and iron. “Since garlic is also known to protect the body against infection due to a compound called allicin, it can also help keep your baby’s immune system in check,” says Dr Chan. Add it to her diet when she turns 10 months old.

How to cook it – Try making a yogurt dip with minced garlic and lemon juice for finger food such as carrot strips. Garlic is also commonly used in making Chinese soups. For young children below 12 months of age, introduce it in small amounts, says Kaira.



Why they’re good – They provide an excellent source omega-3 fatty acids if your family are vegetarian or if you hardly eat salmon and eggs. “Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the development of the brain and retinal for infants,” says Dr Chan. They’re also a great option for babies who are allergic to flax and sesame seed as chia seeds share similar nutritional value. Introduce them when your little one turns 10 months old.

How to cook them – Grind this superfood and mix with porridge and rice cereal, says Dr Chan. If you’re making steamed buns, add some seeds to the dough.



Why they’re good – A great source of carotenoid and zeaxanthin, these help visual development. They’re also rich in calcium, iron and vitamin C, says Fiona. Chances are, your baby will take well to them since they are slightly sweet. Introduce them when she turns 10 months old.

How to cook them – While these dried red berries can be eaten raw, the chewy texture is not recommended for young babies. Soften them by adding them to porridge, cereal or clear soup with meat and vegetables.



Why it’s good – High in carbohydrates, this root vegetable provides energy for growth and development. It also contains fibre to promote bowel movement. She can take this from six months old.

How to cook it – Steam until soft and mash with a fork. Dr Chan recommends serving it with iron-rich food such as egg yolk, fish, meat and tofu to make a nutritious meal.



Why it’s good – Also known as kelp, this is a common ingredient in Japan and Korea, where it’s served in soup with tofu. “Seaweed is rich in iodine, an essential mineral for strong metabolism and brain development,” says Dr Chan. It’s also known to help with digestion, and its natural flavour is a great alternative to salt. For a start, she can enjoy this once a week when she turns nine months old.

How to cook it – Soak it until soft and discard the water. You can make a large batch of soup and use it as a base for cooking rice porridge.


More tips on healthy eating for your little one!


By Michelle Tchea, Young Parents, January 2015

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