Avocado Aficionado Promotes the Fruit as a Must for Your Baby’s Diet : Pediatrician Provides Tips on Feeding Practices
William Sears, author, teacher, practicing pediatrician and father of seven children, has been touring the country to help the avocado industry promote their product as a fine food for babies.
At the same time, he has been providing some tips on sound baby feeding practices.
He began his avocado pitch with several reasons for including the fruit in a baby’s diet. “They are an ideal first food for infants,” Sears said. “Avocados have a delicate flavor and a smooth, creamy consistency babies like. They also are an excellent first fruit that provides many of the essential nutrients needed for baby’s growth and development.”
Avocados are a rich source of the calories babies need for rapid growth at a time when they are not able to have much volume. Babies triple their weight and add 10 to 11 inches to their length by their first birthday. To fuel that growth, babies require 35% to 40% fat in their diets, unlike adults whose fat requirements are less (about 30% to 35%). Avocados contain good stores of carbohydrates and healthful monounsaturated fats, one of the few fruits supplying these fats.
Perfect for Tiny Tummies
Babies derive most of their calories from fat during the first two years of life. Because of this, pediatricians do not recommend low-fat diets for a baby less than 1 year old as fats contain many calories in a relatively small volume, making them perfect for the child’s small stomach. Nearly half a baby’s calories should come from carbohydrates and almost as much from fats. The remainder of their diet should be protein. Human breast milk contains 50% fat.
Avocados are high in potassium (higher than bananas, peaches, carrots and green beans) and contain good amounts of vitamins A and B6, folic acid, niacin, phosphorus, magnesium and iron.
Besides its nutrient value, avocado is an easy-to-handle food, requiring nothing more than halving an avocado and feeding it directly from the peel to a child. No dishes.
Avocados should ripen before serving. The skin of a ripe avocado should yield to slight pressure when gently squeezed. Remove the seed by sliding it out with a spoon. The flesh can be mashed with a fork or pureed in a blender or food processor to a consistency appropriate for the child. The avocado should be pureed for young infants and served chunkier as a baby gets older. Toddlers can also be spoon-fed directly from the avocado shell, making it a nutritious and easy on-the-road meal.
Signs of Feeding Readiness
Mashed avocado may be combined with a variety of foods, including dried cereal, cottage cheese, fruit sauces, meats and vegetables.
According to Sears, the feeding time table for babies has changed in the last five years. “We no longer feed babies according to a time table, as was previously done. We’re encouraging parents to watch for signs of feeding readiness,” Sears said. “We ask parents to wait for the baby to actually beg for solid foods before giving it. The ability for the baby to sit in a high chair, pick up food with a thumb and forefinger, and develop teeth are also signs of feeding readiness.” At 6 months a baby will lose the tongue thrust reflex (protruding the tongue to avoid choking on food or other objects put in the mouth), which is a sign that solid foods can be introduced.
If feeding takes place too early in the child’s development, it can be a problem. “You want to make feeding time as enjoyable as possible” Sears said.
“To determine readiness, take a finger-sized portion of one of these foods and place it on baby’s tongue. If the tongue goes in with a smile, baby is ready to eat. If baby grimaces and the tongue protrudes, don’t push it,” Sears said.
Grazing or nibbling during the day is a good feeding pattern for a toddler. “Don’t expect children to eat by the clock, as do adults. Small, frequent feedings are the best for children and teen-agers,” Sears said.
Filled With Nibbles
For toddlers, Sears suggested a tray or muffin tin filled with nibbles such as broccoli trees, melon blocks, avocado boats, cheese, sticks or trees made with a cookie cutter. “Children love to identify foods by shapes,” he said.
“Put the tray on the table and allow the toddler to nibble as he or she walks by. By the end of the day the tray generally will be empty and the toddler well fed,” Sears said.
In addition, an all-day nibbling program will decrease blood sugar swings, according to Sears. “If a child goes too long without food as can happen in three-times-a-day feeding patterns, blood sugar will drop, particularly in late morning and afternoon. Foods containing fructose, a natural sugar inherent in fruits and vegetables, are preferable to foods to which table sugar is added.
“Sugars such as sucrose (table sugar) contained in icing, frostings, desserts cause blood sugar swings and behavioral mood swings when overdoses are consumed. Sugar enters the blood stream quickly and triggers the insulin cycle, thus causing blood sugar to rise and fall quickly. Fructose, on the other hand, enters the blood stream slowly and does not trigger the insulin cycle. It remains in the blood stream longer and dissipates from the blood stream slowly. “This prevents ups and downs of blood sugar--and mood swings,” Sears said.
Sears encourages the grazing eating pattern for children 1 to 3. “It’s good for behavior and nutrition too,” Sears said.
Sears named four starter foods that could be introduced into a baby’s solid food diet when the child is ready: bananas, pears, avocados and apple sauce.
‘Sweet, Creamy and Tasty’
“These foods are easy to fix, and they are sweet, creamy and tasty,” Sears said.
He recommends grains, such as oat-type cereals, and graham or granola cookies sweetened with fruit concentrate. Cheese is a good source of protein. Raisins are rich in fructose. Meat or fish should be carefully watched for spoilage. “It’s best to prepare and serve these foods at home rather than packing them in lunch bags, where they may chance spoilage under improper storage conditions,” Sears cautioned.
Here’s a rundown of fruits and vegetables and how they fare as baby’s first solid food, from a brochure called “Baby’s Garden,” which is available free of charge by sending a stamped, self-addressed business envelope to “Baby’s Garden,” 1251 E. Dyer Road, Suite 200, Santa Ana, Calif. 92705.
Apples--Uncooked apples are not safe for children under the age of 1, but applesauce is an ideal first fruit, low in citric acid but high in Vitamin E.
Avocados--Smooth, creamy consistency makes avocados an excellent first fresh fruit that baby can enjoy. Low in sodium, avocados contain such nutrients as vitamins A and B6, folic acid, niacin, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. Ripe avocados can be served without cooking. Mash with fork to appropriate consistency or spoon feed directly from fruit shell when baby is ready for chunkier foods. Mix with other foods, such as applesauce, pear sauce, cooked squash or sweet potato.
Bananas--Sweet and smooth, bananas make an ideal first food. High in potassium, bananas also are high in vitamins A, B6, phosphorus and magnesium. Bananas should be ripe (the skin should be covered with brown spots) and cut and mashed with a fork before serving.
Carrots--Raw carrot makes a perfect teething ring for babies aged 6 months and older. Cooked carrots are a good source of Vitamin A and help the body fight infection and speed growth of teeth, nails, hair, eyes, bones and glands. Steam carrots until tender and puree, adding cooking liquid to reach proper consistency for baby’s age. Blend with other vegetables, such as peas, potatoes or avocados.
Pears--Pears contain potassium and vitamins A and C. Raw pears should not be introduced in the baby’s diet until the child is 1 year old. Cooked pears, however, are a perfect first food for baby to digest. Cooked, pureed pears (prepared as you would applesauce) can be combined with other fruits or vegetables.
Peas--An excellent source of protein and other nutrients necessary for normal digestive and nervous system functions. Steam cook peas until tender, then blend or process until suitable for the child. Combine with pureed cauliflower, chicken or potatoes.
Sweet Potatoes and Winter Squash--Both are high in Vitamin A and contain Vitamin B6, potassium and other nutrients. To prepare for baby, wash and peel sweet potatoes then cook in a small amount of water or steam over medium heat until fork-tender. Puree with a small amount of cooking liquid. Mix with pureed peas, carrots or meat. Squash should be baked at 375 degrees until fork-tender, then blended until smooth with enough water to reach proper consistency.