MAJOR WEANING FOODS
What are the main categories of Indian
Foods that can be used for weaning?
Cereals contain 7 to 12 % proteins and
about 75% carbohydrate. They form an important source of energy, iron and protein in the
Indian diet and also supply a certain amount of fat, which is referred to as invisible
A thick creamy porridge made from cereals
in water/ milk/ milk-water mixture is a good weaning food for babies. Cereals are cheaper
than most other foods and are usually consumed by the family. When given alone, especially
after being cooked in water, most cereals are too low in energy. The porridge should be
thick (too thick to be given in a bottle) and concentrated but soft. Some oil or fat (or
sugar) should be added to the porridge to make it richer in calories and easier to swallow
and digest. Care should be taken to ensure that the porridge is not watered down or made
unduly thin which will further compromise the energy content.
and Starchy Roots
These are mostly eaten in addition to
cereals and include potato, sweet potato and colocasia (arwi). In parts of Kerala, tapioca
or cassava is eaten instead of rice. These are rich in carbohydrates but if given alone,
especially after being cooked in water, are too low in energy.
The Indian diet consists of several kinds
of legumes - lentils, Bengal gram, red gram, black gram, horse gram, rajma etc. Red gram
is mostly eaten in the southern, western and central parts of India. A wider variety of
pulses are eaten in the northern parts. Their protein content is 20-25%. Dry legumes that
are a much richer source than the immature legumes, are also a good source of vitamins and
The legumes need to be cooked thoroughly
and mashed to make them easily digestible for babies. It should be thick (too thick to be
given in a bottle) and concentrated but soft. Some oil or fat (or little sugar) should be
added to make it richer in calories and easier to swallow and digest.
When given with cereal staples, they are
just as nutritious as animal foods (meat, fish, and milk). Well-cooked pulses along with
cereals in the form of kichidi/pongal can be given or can be made into porridges. Pulse
and meat preparation can be given alternate days.
Seeds and Nuts
Roasted groundnut is recommended in winter.
In Maharashtra and Gujarat, green boiled groundnut is popular.
Vegetables are poor in calories and protein
but are good sources of vitamins (especially A, B and C) and minerals (esp. iron). The
dark green or yellow vegetables are particularly good sources of vitamin A. Generally,
darker the color, better the food value.
Cooked, mashed vegetables like potato,
green leafy vegetables, carrots etc. can be introduced to get vitamins and minerals in the
Commonly consumed fruits are banana, guava,
melon, mango and citrus fruits. Pear, apple, plum, peach are abundantly available in the
hilly regions. Banana is rich in carbohydrates and supplies about 80 calories per 100
gram. It is easily digestible and is very good as the first semi-solid food for the baby.
Guava and citrus fruits are rich in Vitamin C while mango and papaya are good sources of
vitamin A. Before giving any fruit to your baby, be sure that it is washed in clean water,
peeled carefully, deseeded and then mashed.
of fresh fruits:
Oranges, tomatoes, sweet lime, grapes as
well as their juices serve to supplement the protective nutrients not present in
sufficient amounts in breast milk as well as in animal milk.
In the early stages, the fruit juice is
diluted with an equal amount of boiled water and only a couple of teaspoonfuls are fed.
After the age of 6 months, the amount of fruit juice fed is gradually increased and at the
same time the dilution with water is cut down and eventually stopped.
Fish liver oils are good sources of vitamin
A and D. Infants should be given a few drops to � tsp. per day mixed in small quantity of
Oils and fats should preferably be added to
the weaning foods since they increase energy value, make the food softer and easier to
swallow and help in absorption of vitamin A. Many kinds of oils are used in different
parts of India mustard oil in Bengal, Assam and Kashmir, and groundnut, sunflower,
palm and til (sesame) oil in other parts.
This can be used as an alternative to oils
to increase the energy value of the weaning foods. However, care should be taken that
excess of sugar is not added as it may result in dental decay and osmotic diarrhea.
of animal Origin
Nearly all foods of animal origin are
nutritious since they provide high quality protein, vitamin B12 and iron and
are easily digestible. They include:
- Meats including organ meats. Mutton and chicken are most commonly consumed while pork
and beef are preferred by certain communities. Meat often needs to be chopped very finely,
or pounded with a pestle to make it easy for babies to eat.
- Fish, consumed mostly in coastal areas like Konkan, Maharashtra, Bengal, Kerala, etc.
Care must be exercised to separate the small sharp bones.
- The yolk contains protein, iron and vitamins, which are valuable additions to the
babys diet. Hard cooked egg yolk seems to agree well with the babies. Soft custard
is also a suitable way in which to introduce egg yolk. Egg white, because of the frequency
of allergic manifestations, is not given until the infant is 8 to 10 months old and then
it is given very cautiously.
The fish or meat serving may be alternated
with egg yolk and dal. Minced and cooked meat or boiled fish may be fed after suitably
flavoring with salt, 3 to 4 times a week.
and Milk Products
All types of milk provide high quality
protein, mostly in the form of casein, in contrast to human milk, which has mainly
lactalbumin. The fat content of buffalos milk is almost double than that of human or
cows milk. Milk is a rich source of B6 and calcium, and has some amounts
of vitamins A and C, however it is a poor source of iron. Goats milk does not have
vitamin B12. In addition to being used alone, milk can also be used to cook
porridge or added to other weaning foods to enhance their energy content and soften them.
Several milk products like curd, cottage cheese (Paneer), khoya, etc. are available and
can be used in addition to or in place of milk. All of them have good nutritive value.
TO IMPROVE THE
NUTRITIVE VALUE OF WEANING FOODS
We are told about 5 different food groups.
How to mix them while planning a menu for young children?
Besides the basic staple food, which is
generally a cereal such as wheat, rice or jowar that provide energy, items from the
following groups must be added to the diet.
Proteins: are beneficial for the growing
child. Animal milk and milk products are good sources. Where feasible eggs, meat and fish
can be used to provide high quality protein. However, pulses and beans are good
alternatives, especially in vegetarians.
Oils and fats are rich sources of
calories and make the weaning food softer and tastier. Vegetable oils should be preferred
over ghee. A little oil should always be added to the weaning diet to increase the
Vegetables and fruits supply vitamins and
minerals including iron. Seasonal, readily available and economical options should be
used. The vegetables can be easily cooked with dals.
Fortunately the diet pattern in India
consists of a mixture of cereals and pulses, like idli, dosa and pongal in south, and
khichri and missi roti (mixture of wheat and gram flour-besan) in the North.
Iron stores in the liver of the infant
would last only upto 5 6 months. Hence iron rich foods like dark green leafy
vegetables, cereals, wheatflour, rice flakes, legumes, jaggery liver, meat, organ meats,
poultry, egg yolk. (iron is in readily available form i.e. heme iron) in appropriate forms
should be given.
Should any special care be taken during
The nutritive value of many weaning foods
can be improved by taking due care during preparation. The porridge or for that matter any
other weaning food should not be excessively watered down or thinned in the belief
that it will be easier to ingest and digest. A classic example of this is the thin
dal water. Even small babies can easily tolerate semi-solid foods and over
dilution results in loss of valuable calories.
Unnecessary loss of nutrients should be
avoided. For instance, it is better to wash vegetables whole before cutting them into
small pieces. The smaller the piece, the greater is the loss of nutrients. Use the minimum
amount of water for cooking and mash the food with the water used for cooking. Adding
excess water and draining it off later results in loss of water-soluble nutrients and
should be avoided.
Husks, bean skin and vegetable fibers can cause
indigestion, so everything must be thoroughly mashed in the beginning.
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