Nutrition For Children: Age-Appropriate Guide To Healthy Eating

Do you feel your child is too young for some foods? Are you hesitant about offering certain fruits and veggies to your little one, fearing a stomach upset? Our expert clears your doubts.

By Team ParentCircle

Nutrition For Children: Age-Appropriate Guide To Healthy Eating

Nine-month-old Sai loves the bright yellow colour of mangoes. The little one seems to relish the taste of the fruit and tries to grab it from his mother’s hand when the family is eating together. But the boy's mother, Shalini, is apprehensive and doesn't offer mangoes to him, as she feels it will make him  sick.  

Many young mothers have this dilemma — at what age is it appropriate to give certain foods to their children? ParentCircle talks to Anuja Agarwala, paediatric dietician, to get answers to some of these questions.

Mango

Nutrition For Children: Age-Appropriate Guide To Healthy Eating

When can I give mangoes to my child?

You can offer a small amount of mashed mangoes to your baby with milk or water, even at 7–8 months of age. Contrary to popular belief, mangoes are a good option for making baby food. If your child is showing interest in eating mangoes, make puree out of them and offer this to your little one. Make it chunky for babies aged 10 months and above. Start with small quantities of the fruit and see if your child can digest it. The nutrients present in mangoes help in your baby’s development and the fibre content will ensure good bowel movements. 

How to make baby food with a mango: To make mango puree, wash the mango, peel the skin, remove the seed and cut into pieces. You can put the pieces in a blender with a little water or mash the mango with a spoon. Add milk to make it smooth. 

Ice-cream 

Nutrition For Children: Age-Appropriate Guide To Healthy Eating

Should I allow my one-year-old to eat an ice-cream?

“There is no need to start your baby on ice-cream, when he turns one. Ice-cream is nothing but sweetened, flavoured milk with high-calorie content. However, it is okay to offer melted ice-cream to a sick child, who is otherwise not eating anything; or to an underweight child,” says Anuja.  

Offering ice-cream to toddlers becomes a problem,  

  •          When it replaces regular home-cooked food or milk 
  •          When a child wants ice-cream every day, and it becomes a habit
  •          When working parents offer ice-creams/chocolates regularly as a reward

Indulging in processed foods like ice-creams occasionally is fine, but avoid offering it to children as a routine. If your child is having a throat infection or a cold, it is better to avoid cold foods like ice-cream.

Honey

Nutrition For Children: Age-Appropriate Guide To Healthy Eating

Can I replace sugar with honey for my 10-year-old son’s food who is slightly overweight?

“Honey is safe if it is of good quality. But calorie content of both honey and sugar is same. There is a myth that honey helps to reduce weight when taken in lukewarm water every day in the morning. Restricting sugar or replacing table sugar with a liberal intake of honey, cannot be considered as a healthy option."

To reduce weight in young children, a balanced diet, no processed foods and lots of outdoor play is recommended. 

Nuts

Nutrition For Children: Age-Appropriate Guide To Healthy Eating

Can I give nuts to my three-year-old daughter?

Nuts can be offered in finely powdered form to children below one year — if there is a need to increase proteins in the diet. Some children cannot digest milk — for them nuts are a good substitute for adequate nutrition. If your family is vegetarian, nuts can provide for your child's protein needs. 

However, always be careful while offering whole nuts to small children. Whole nuts can get stuck in the throat and your child could choke on it. This is one of the reasons whole nuts are not advisable for children below four years. By age four, teach your child how to eat a whole nut, make him understand that nuts need to be eaten one at a time and chewed properly.

It is really not essential to offer nuts, if the child is consuming adequate proteins in the form of milk, pulses, egg/meat, etc.”

Also Read: Are Dried Fruits And Nuts Good Or Bad For Children?

Corn

Nutrition For Children: Age-Appropriate Guide To Healthy Eating

Is it safe to give corn to my child?

Corn could be a choking hazard for your child, just like whole nuts. Corn is a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. However, be cautious while giving corn to your child. Infants and young children might have trouble chewing corn completely and small pieces of corn or its outer skin can get stuck inside their airways, causing an abrasion or infection. Offer corns in boiled and mashed form after your child learns to chew on food.

Anuja Agarwala is a paediatric dietician at AIIMS and also the executive member of Indian Society of Enteral and Parenteral Nutrition.

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