What Can Baby Makan?
Young Parents Singapore|August 2018

Is your weaning guide all about potatoes and pasta? Elisa Chia and Eveline Gan ask the experts about barley water, Bee Hoon and feeding, Asian-style.

Elisa Chia and Eveline Gan

Grandma likes to add ikan bilis to porridge to boost the taste and calcium content. But aren’t they a tad salty for Baby?

Dr Bhaskaran Ikan bilis (or anchovies) are a good source of calcium and protein, if consumed whole. Whole ikan bilis with the head, organs and bones intact, are richer in nutrients such as calcium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and iron, compared to cleaned anchovies without those parts.

It is found that the consumption of the cleaned body resulted in a significant reduction in calcium (eight-fold difference), iron (two-fold difference) and zinc (1.5-fold difference) compared to the whole ikan bilis. That’s why the nutritive value depends on how they are eaten.

But your concern is valid, too. They’re very high in salt and should be used in moderation. In order to reduce the sodium content, the ikan bilis should be soaked in water and then rinsed thoroughly. Use them immediately or have them dried to remove moisture. Then blend them and store the fine powder in an airtight container.

If you have a family history of allergies, however, you may want to add ikan bilis slowly. Instead of ikan bilis, you can add finely minced meat such as chicken, or prepare a chicken stock to cook the porridge.

Pauline If you’re using poultry, remove all skin and trim off visible fat before cooking. You can also try healthier alternatives to make stock, such as with soya beans or mushrooms. When preparing stock with carrot, pumpkin and potato, cut them into large chunks to retain more nutrients.

How about popular processed food, such as fishballs and fishcakes?

Dr Bhaskaran Fish cakes and fishballs bought off the shelf are processed food high in sodium. Besides, they can be choking hazards because of the springy texture.

Pauline Go for fresh ingredients instead, such as lean minced meat, minced chicken breast, fish and tofu, which are higher in protein and other minerals. Babies actually do enjoy the natural taste of food, so avoid introducing any condiments and processed foods until they turn one.

Dr Bhaskaran When your baby is nine months old, try making your own healthy version of fishballs and fish cakes with fresh ingredients and of softer texture.

Is it okay to flavour her meals with herbs and spices?

Dr Bhaskaran In many parts of the world, herbs and spices are introduced at a very early age. Besides many health benefits, they enhance food’s natural flavours without the need for salt, sugar and added flavourings that aren’t as good for us.

They also help expand your baby’s tastebuds and reduce fussy eating habits, while also providing a varied diet that the whole family can enjoy.

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