Exclusive breastfeeding is the mantra for the first six months of life. Mother’s milk is the complete and only food for your baby at this age. After six months, the question on every mother’s mind is what to feed the little one and in what sequence. The Indian diet provides for the best options for your baby as everything is easily available in your kitchen. A balanced Indian diet includes cereals, pulses, vegetables, fruits and milk products.
At the age of 6 months, start giving purees and porridges and gradually increase it over the next few weeks to reach at least three complementary feeds per day along with breastmilk. Most grains can be given, but one must follow the ‘three-day wait rule’ that is, wait for three days after a new food item is introduced. This rule helps to identify if a particular food item is causing an allergy or any other reaction like gas, diarrhoea or constipation.
Following are some simple yet nutritious foods that can be included in your child’s diet.
Fruits: Single servings of mashed fruits like apple, banana, chikoo, papaya, in addition to seasonal fruits can be given in the weaning stage. They are rich sources of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Ripened bananas are rich in potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, iron, and sulphur and copper. Slowly increase the number of servings to two or three per day. Fruits can also be given in the form of juices or yoghurt shakes.
Rice: Kanji, Khichdi and rice pureed with pulses can be introduced in the regular diet of your child. This will not only add bulk to the diet but is also a good source of carbohydrates, B complex, proteins and fibre. White rice is gluten-free which makes it easy to digest and rarely causes allergy.
Mashed vegetables: Boiled and mashed potato, beans, beetroot, carrot, broccoli, tomato and sweet potato can be a part of your child’s diet. These vegetables are rich in multivitamins and have high fibre content. Carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene. Simultaneous introduction of green leafy vegetables along with cereals and pulses should be encouraged. A good intake of vegetables ensures normal bowel movements.
Semolina/Ragi/Dalia porridge: Rich in carbohydrates and fibre, porridge is an ideal breakfast to begin the day with. Ragi is a rich source of iron and calcium which can help strengthen bones and improve overall health.
Chapathi with boiled masoor dal and vegetable or paneer bhurji: This is an ideal lunch combination. Grind coarsely using the mixer. Mash the vegetables, dal or the paneer and mix with the chapati before feeding your child.
Sooji halwa with dry fruit paste: Dry fruits are a rich source of iron, calcium and various vitamins and mineral. The halwa is easy to prepare and tastes delicious.
Mashed idli: Fermentation of the batter makes idli easily digestible. Urad dal which is used in the idli batter is a good source of proteins. Idli is a good source of essential amino acids and essential fatty acids that are good for brain development.
Curd: Homemade curd is a natural probiotic and is a good source of calcium and protein. Include at least one serving of curd per day. This will ensure good digestion as well.
Jaggery: A natural sweetener, jaggery is a rich source of iron. Powdered jaggery with ghee on its own or added to khichdi, dal rice paste or halwa not only adds flavour but also encourages good bowel movements.
Eggs and non-vegetarian food: For families who want to introduce non-vegetarian food in their baby’s diet, eggs should be the first choice as they are high in proteins. Fish can be given in the mashed form. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for body and brain growth. Babies often love strained chicken stew served as a soup or in combination with mashed or softened rice. This is a good source of proteins, niacin and vitamin B6. Niacin helps release energy from carbohydrates and aids in the formation of red blood cells, whereas B6 is necessary for proper immune function and produces certain neurotransmitters.
The authors are paediatricians at K.J. Somaiya Medical College, Hospital & Research Centre, Mumbai.