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Monday, December 31, 2007

Time for Solid Food!

Before starting with solid food, first ensure that your baby is given "clean" food, not even contaminated by the saliva of adults closest to him. Yes I know it's a gesture of love when adults share their food with babies / kids. But the bacteria residing in our body system can be passed on to the kids. Believe me, I've read up on this issue and have decided it's in my son's best interest to NOT share foods with anybody else, and I try to avoid it as much as possible.

By not sharing, I don't mean it in the selfish sense. "Hygienic" sharing is alright & encouraged. What does that mean? For example, don't let kids stick their hands (with saliva included) into one bag to share their titbits or snacks. Instead pour out some into their individual bowls. At meal times, use a common spoon to serve from a dish into our own plates, instead of sticking our own spoons (with saliva included) into the shared dish. Sometimes adults would use their own spoons or chopsticks (with saliva included again) to give foods to the kids. Sometimes they drink from the same cup or bottle. Sometimes well-meaning adults will take a bite off their apple for example, then offer it (yes the same bitten piece) to a kid. I'm horrified. If you know the consequences you'll be too. If we really need to share food, why don't we get another set of spoon & bowl? I'm sure hygienic sharing would convey our love just as well if not better.

Anyway, what were the types of solid foods I gave to my son? Of course I had started with semi-solids like rice cereal. Sometimes I gave him food from a jar (when we went out, for convenience sake). Then soft foods like apple puree (scrape apple with a spoon), potato puree (mashed potato), papaya etc. Then came the "real" solid foods.

Usual meal would include 2 vegetables and 1 meat. These were complemented with either porridge or soft rice. I tried to rotate the vegetables I used for every meal. List of vegetables include tomato, pumpkin, carrot, baby corn, cauliflower, broccoli, leafy vegetables (like spinach), mushrooms, hairy marrow, potato etc. Sometimes I give beancurd (tofu) , egg (steamed or hard-boiled) or silverfish. Meat given was usually rotated among fish, minced chicken, minced pork or minced beef.

Method of cooking? Usually by steaming. Any seasoning? None. To me, that's the ideal diet for a baby / toddler. He gets the "real" taste of the food. I tried to include a variety of fresh healthy foods and avoided giving him foods which are highly processed, or contains colourings or preservatives. (Yes I admit I don't like Y----t or V-----n.) I don't give him sweets as rewards too. Fruits are healthier. I'm lucky that to this date, he doesn't eat much sweets or titbits. It's been beneficial to both his health & his teeth. In addition, I always prefer plain drinking water to sweetened or carbonated drinks. (Did you know that sweets & additives are detrimental to kids? I'm not sure if they result in lack of concentration or cause hyper-activity in kids, but I do believe kids will benefit if they follow a healthier diet.)

How to entice him to eat? I tried to make at least the colour interesting. For example I'll not give him a meal which includes fish, hairy marrow & tofu. Why? Though it's quite balanced in nutrition, you would've noticed that it's all white! Next I tried to vary the texture & taste. For example, more crunchy baby corn can be given with soft pumpkin, tomato can be given with cauliflower. Then you can also play around with shapes. Carrots can be cut into shapes of stars or moons, baby corn can be cut into round shapes, potatoes can be cut into strips or triangles. You get the idea.

Side-track a bit here. Talking about potatoes. I never introduced him to fast foods when he was young. He was first introduced to Mc------- and Ke------ by his pre-school teachers (when they went on outing)! However with my own attitudes towards fast foods, I believe he has been influenced more or less and accepts that they are unhealthy foods though once in a while he will request for fries. Most of the time he's more attracted to their kids' meal toys than their foods.

Let's get back to meal time. When I fed him, I didn't just "spoon-feed" him. I made sure I told him the name / colour / shape of the food he was eating. Meal time was a learning time & fun time. But he was not allowed to run around while eating. A routine was set so that before every meal time, he would have to sit in his walker (tied so it couldn't move) or high chair (when he was slightly older), and have his hands cleaned. I did have some toys standing-by to entertain him if necessary. (Usually I try to "entertain" him by talking, so he doesn't get distracted by toys, haha.) No shoving of food into his mouth either. Just put the spoon next to his lips so he ate "voluntarily".

Though proper food & nutrition is the foundation for a healthy kid, meal time should never be a struggling time. It's a time for the child to enjoy his food. If he doesn't appreciate your time & effort spent in preparing the meal, so be it. Just accept that it's a passing phase of his life and keep at it. I haven't encountered much difficulties in this aspect and have limited experiences with only one kid, however I've known many mothers who actually became very creative because they have difficulty in getting their kids to eat. So take heart mummies.

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