Healthy eating: it's never too early

Your usual eating plan has a big impact on overall health, with a poor eating plan often recognised when excess weight is gained. Good eating habits should start from a baby’s first mouthful of breastmilk, through the stages when solid foods are introduced, and then be maintained during childhood, adolescence and the adult years.

“After the first six months babies  move from exclusive breast to eating suitable solid foods and then  table foods with the rest of the family. An important part of this process is the  foods and textures you introduce at each age, as well as the quantity, frequency and quality,” says Berna Harmse, registered dietician and President of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA).

Exclusive breastfeeding should be maintained for six months, and then suitable foods should be gradually introduced. Traditionally these first foods are cereal based, such as soft porridge, baby cereal or mashed potatoes. The variety of foods should be increased from week to week, with one new food at a time being introduced, and then waiting three to five days before the next is included. This is to assist in identification of potential foods which may cause an allergic reaction.

“If you notice diarrhoea, vomiting or rashes, stop the new food and contact your baby’s health care provider. These symptoms may indicate a food allergy,” says Harmse.

Textures are also very important for introducing foods. Most babies find it easier to eat foods that are soft and  smooth initially and then over a few weeks can manage food with some lumps, then minced, then by one year they can eat many foods from the family table.

 Firm foods, especially round foods, are choking hazards. Others are popcorn, peanuts, whole grapes, uncut or stringy meats, sticky foods such as peanut butter and hard, raw fruits or vegetables such as apples, green beans and carrots.

Within a few months of starting solid foods, your baby’s daily diet should include a variety of foods each day that may include the following:

  • Breast milk 
  • Meats, eggs and fish
  • Cereal, including enriched baby cereal
  • Vegetables and fruit
  • Oil
  • Water

For more information on nutrition and complementary feeding, contact a registered dietician. Visit

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- (Health24, June 2011)

 Read more:

Nutrition in the first year of life
First meal is life-changing
First two years determine health in life

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