What should your baby snack on? This question may often make you wonder . A snack should be nutritious and be able to bridge the nutrient gap and also be palatable and attractive for her. Snacks are infact healthy habits for every child and there are a number of things that you can follow to get them right.
What are snacks?
Snacks are small portions of food that may be eaten between main meals. They should be healthy, easy and convenient to prepare. They are as important as the main meals that your baby eats daily. Snacks, add on to the dietary needs of your baby, but cannot substitute the importance of healthy main meals as they form the major part of the diet.
What makes for the best snacks?
Keep it nutritious. Snacks are considered as an important part of a growing baby’s needs. So it’s very important that the snack ingredients are healthy and nutritious keeping in mind the nutrient requirements of your growing baby.
Plan according to her requirements.
Till about six months of age, mother’s milk is sufficient to take care of the baby’s needs. However, after 6 months, your baby’s requirements increase which needs to be fulfilled by foods other than breast milk. You need to feed your baby complementary food 2-3 times a day. Initially, till about one year of age, meal occasions are less for the baby as the baby’s stomach is maturing as it adjusts to foods other than mother’s milk. However, once you baby is over a year, the quantity of milk lessons and to fulfill the growing nutrient needs one has to incorporate nutritious snacks along with the main meals.
How to choose snacks appropriate for the little one’s age?
According to WHO, an appropriate complementary feeding should be timely, nutritionally adequate and should be hygienically prepared. Your baby’s ability to digest more and more complex food also improves gradually. You need to plan your baby’s snack according to her digestive abilities. At the same time you need to gradually increase the complexity of food you give her to take care of her growing energy requirements.
Start at six months of age with small amounts of food and increase the quantity as the child gets older, while maintaining frequent breastfeeding. Your baby at this age has a very immature digestive system and she is able to eat only pureed, mashed and semi-solid food like curd, mashes or pureed fruit etc. so you should plan snacks which have these textures and are easily consumed by your baby.
By the time she is almost a year old, she is able to eat ‘finger food’ i.e. snacks that can be eaten by babies without supervision. Finger foods like a potato cutlet, a piece of fruit, some cheese or salads, bread sticks etc can be given to your baby. What you need to take care of is the size of the food, giving too small a piece like a small piece of carrot or a grape can cause choking hazards
By the time she is more than a year old she can eat what the rest of her family is eating, keeping in mind the right portion size for her . Her snacks can then include preparations like French toast, poha, stuffed parantha’s etc .
Getting smart on your little one’s snacks – some basic feeding tips.
Variety is the Key. Your baby’s snacks must fill the nutrient gap. Try to include a wide variety of foods from the different food groups like cereals, pulses, fruits, vegetables, dairy etc in her diet so that you can provide her with the benefits of various food groups.
Different foods, different formats. Your young one may put up tantrums when served with the same kind of food daily. The best way to keep her happy and the tantrums down is to include things that she likes as snacks. you can always introduce new foods along with her favorite ones or change the format of one food eg, spinach can be given in form of spinach poori, spinach raita, etc.
Milk can never go wrong. Milk and other milk products like paneer, curd and fruit yoghurts, milk based desserts like kheer etc are always good as snacks. Milk products are rich source of protein, calcium and B-vitamins.
Fresh fruit and vegetable juices: Unsweetened fresh fruit and vegetable juices, fruit smoothies are great as a snack , being rich in vitamins and minerals eg Vit CA and iron etc . Your toddler is able to handle about 100 - 150 ml of fruit juice. However limit the quantity and frequency of juice to avoid displacing more nutrient rich foods. Try to provide fresh fruits or vegetable sticks as substitutes instead.
Go nuts. Nuts are extremely nutritious. Nuts are rich in energy, protein, fibers and essential fatty acids. Nuts and dried fruits like almonds, walnuts, pistachios etc can be given (5-8 no.) in forms such as a paste or powdered and mixed with milk to prevent choking in children upto 3 years of age.
Choose your own food wisely.
Children are always trying to imitate adults and you are your baby’s role model. How you choose your own snacks determines the food habits of your baby. If you snack on healthy foods, your baby will also choose the right snack. You should avoid giving too much of fried food and large portions as snacks. Choose well for yourself and your young one follows in your footsteps.