Nutrition has a significant influence on health and development
throughout a person's life, so it is very important to guide children on
a path to healthy living through their diet. Importantly, eating habits
formed early on do tend to stick with a person, so it is a good idea to
get children off to the best possible start.
The consequence of a poor diet could be long-lasting, whereas a
healthy, balanced diet can protect against illness and ensure the
development of strong bones and teeth, firm muscles and healthy tissue.
Research has shown that a well-balanced, low-fat, high-fibre
vegetarian diet is very healthy for adults and children and provides all
the required nourishment. This is a widely acknowledged fact among
health professionals, including organisations such as the British
When a baby is under four months, breast milk or infant formula should be given.
The gradual introduction of solids as milk replacement (weaning)
should occur no earlier than three months, and no later than six. From
about four months weaning usually begins for the majority of babies:
rice-based or gluten-free cereals, puréed and sieved pulses, fruit
(apples, bananas, pears) and veg (potatoes, carrots and spinach) are
It's best to introduce one food at a time and leave a couple of days
in between, that way you will be able to monitor for any allergies
should they occur, especially if there is a history of allergies in the
family. A baby might reject stronger tasting vegetables such as
broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, but might like them later on. You
never can tell and parents can be driven to distraction because children
can be very fussy and changeable when it comes to most things,
At this stage, milk is still the most important food in your baby's
diet, but gradually increase the number of times solid food is given,
from once, to twice, to three times a day.
From six months onward, bread, wheat and oat-based foods (porridge),
hard boiled eggs, cheese and cow's milk in cooking can be introduced.
It's recommended to start topping up iron stores with iron-fortified
cereals (from six months your baby needs more iron than can be provided
by milk, which is a poor source, generally speaking), beans and lentils
-- puréed to begin with, then mashed with vegetable oil, also green
vegetables and houmous. Solid foods should by now be eaten three times a
From eight to twelve months, baby will gradually be able to cope with
lumpier foods, even from the family table, as long as they do not
contain salt. Well cooked and mashed peas and beans can be introduced at
around this time, as now they can be easily digested by the child's
Avoid sweets and biscuits -- instead, try small pieces of peeled
apple or raw carrot or crusts of bread, as baby is now able to chew more
Sandwiches and toast can become everyday foods during
this period. By the age of twelve months, your baby should be enjoying
three meals a day.
Babies between six and twelve months require between 700 and 1000
calories a day, so they need concentrated sources of energy. Little
people do not have the capacity to eat large quantities, they need small
and frequent meals.
As a general rule, do not include foods which are either bulky or
watery and sugar is not a good source of energy for babies. Serve
concentrated energy foods such as lentils with vegetable oil, or
avocado, cheese or smooth nut butter.
Breast milk or infant formula should be fed throughout the first year
of a life.
Babies under two should not be given semi-skimmed milk
because not enough energy will be present. Children under five should
not be given skimmed milk for the same reason. Soya milks should be
specially formulated if used instead of breast milk -- if avoiding all
animal milk products, it is