A Flavorful Burst of Health: Introducing Your Baby to Proteins & Carbs Day 3: A Flavorful Burst of Health

A Flavorful Burst of Health: Introducing Your Baby to Proteins & Carbs

Protein is one of the three macronutrients, the other two being fat and carbohydrates. And your baby’s plate should include these macronutrients. Let’s first look at protein.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Certain amino acids are not made or produced by the body naturally. Introducing protein-rich foods into your baby's diet can help them get the nutrients they need to support their growth and development.

Why Is Protein Essential for Your Baby?

1) Protein is essential for your baby’s growth and development.

2) It helps build and repair tissues, including muscles, organs, and bones.

3) It plays a role in the production of enzymes and hormones.

4) It can help regulate blood sugar levels and contribute to a healthy immune system.

However, babies require more fat at this age than proteins, because breast milk and infant formula are already good sources of protein.

You can start giving all kinds of protein-rich foods from 6 months onwards. We recommend starting these foods early on, as a lot of these foods are rich in iron too. If we delay the introduction of such foods, we end up depriving our babies of the essential nutrients like iron and protein.

Types of Proteins

There are 2 types of protein: complete and incomplete proteins.

1. Complete proteins (or high-quality proteins) contain all of the essential amino acids that the body needs to build and repair tissues, maintain the immune system, and perform other vital functions. Animal-based proteins, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy, are complete proteins.

2. Incomplete proteins (or low-quality proteins) lack one or more of the essential amino acids. Plant-based proteins, such as beans, lentils, nuts, and grains, are often incomplete proteins.

However, by combining different plant-based protein sources, it is possible to create a complete protein. For example, combining rice and beans or peanut butter on whole grain bread can provide all of the essential amino acids.

Top Food Sources of Protein

Good-quality protein is found in:

  • Eggs (preferably organic)
  • Meat like chicken, fish, mutton, liver (preferably organic)
  • Milk and milk products like cheese, yogurt, paneer
  • Pulses and legumes
  • Firm tofu
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Many sources of high-quality protein also provide nutrients like vitamin E, B, zinc, iron, and magnesium.

    Meet Your Baby’s Protein Goals: Our Top 3 Tips

    1. Include one protein-rich food in every meal. For e.g., egg for breakfast; dal/lentils and curd or yogurt for lunch; some kind of meat for dinner.

    2. Add bone broth or dal water to cook the vegetables or make curries or gravies, which will add protein to the dish.

    3. Power up protein during snack time. Add cheese; spread some nut butter, yogurt, or hummus; or simply offer yogurt or curd with nut butters added into it.

    Protein-Rich Finger Foods Your Baby Will Enjoy

  • Well-cooked pulses, lentils, and legumes. Mash them and make dal, sambhar, kadhi, or hummus
  • Eggs: Use both yolks and whites. Serve them hard-cooked or scrambled
  • Baked or poached chicken breast or thigh: Make sure it is slow-cooked, tender, and shredded
  • Low-mercury fish: Make sure it’s deboned, cooked, and shredded so it’s flaky
  • Medium firm cheese: Serve it shredded (cheddar, cottage cheese, mozzarella, or tofu)
  • Meat: Chopped meatballs or ground meat patties
  • Nut butters & soft cheese: Peanut or almond butter; ricotta cheese or cream cheese
  • Now that we’ve looked at Fat & Protein, let’s move to the third macro nutrient: Carbs or carbohydrates.

    Carbs are the energy that fuels our bodies, and babies need plenty of energy!

    Often, when you think of the word “carbohydrates,” we visualize foods like pasta, potatoes, and rice. And you’re not wrong, but there are other foods that contain healthy carbs, such as legumes, grains, and even fruit and vegetables. Then, there are the more processed carbs with much less nutritional value such as biscuits and cakes, which we want to avoid as much as we can.

    Why Does Your Baby Need Carbohydrates?

  • Carbs are the main source of energy for the body.
  • They’re essential for brain development and function, as glucose derived from carbohydrates is the primary fuel for the brain.
  • They provide fiber, which is important for your baby’s digestive health and preventing constipation.
  • They help support a healthy immune system.
  • Whole grain cabs can provide important vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, and B vitamins, which are important for a baby's growth and development.
  • Carbs can help regulate blood sugar levels, preventing spikes and crashes that can affect a baby's mood and behavior.
  • Tip:

    It’s good to offer babies more “unrefined” carbs, which include whole grains like wheat, rice, cereals, millets, quinoa, etc. It’s best to avoid “refined” carbs (anything that contains large amounts of maida or corn flour).

    How Much Carbs Does Your Baby Need?

    Approximately 40% of your baby’s total daily energy intake should come from carbohydrates to provide them with the energy they need to grow well. This requirement will increase to around 55% by the time your baby turns 2.

    To ensure your baby is eating enough carbs, offer one or two tastes at each main meal or snacks. Refer to the meal plans and recipe ideas below for inspiration!

    Top Food Sources of Carbs

  • Whole grains and cereals: rice, whole wheat, oats, rice flakes, quinoa, vermicelli, semolina, sago, millets, pasta
  • Fruits: apple, banana, jackfruit, fig, raisins, plums, apricots, pineapple, pear, dates
  • Starchy vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, beetroots, yam, raw banana, pumpkin, corn, Colocasia, tapioca, cauliflower, spinach, broccoli, zucchini
  • Legumes and lentils: rajma, chickpeas, lentils, etc., which are also excellent sources of B vitamins, iron, folate, and protein!
  • Dairy: whole milk, curd, cottage cheese, and yogurt, which also ensure calcium and protein intake
  • Carb-Rich Snack Ideas

  • Powdered raw banana porridge with ghee
  • Aloo methi sabji with chapati/roti/rice
  • Baked or steamed sweet potato wedges with yogurt as a snack
  • Whole grain bread sandwich dipped in nut butter spread
  • Ragi/raw banana porridge with full fat milk/yogurt/curd and or ghee/coconut oil Add mashed banana or well-ground seeds to add protein. Add good fats and iron like raisins/apricots.
  • Pancakes can be served. Ensure it’s made with eggs, oil or ghee, veggies, and flour like whole wheat or ragi. Top them with berries or oranges or yogurt.
  • To ensure a balanced plate of food for your baby when your meals are mostly Indian style, remember these two tips:

    Tip 1: If khichdi is on your family meal menu, you’re all set. Rice adds the carbs, dal adds protein, and ghee adds good fats. But make sure you add veggies like carrots, beetroot, and tomatoes to add iron, fiber, and vitamin C to create a well-balanced meal!

    Tip 2: If your menu consists of rice or roti (as is normal in most Indian homes), then you’re set on the carbs front! Add slow cooked, tender, shredded or ground chicken or some flaked fish for their protein intake (if you’re vegetarian, use shredded paneer or peas, beans, or lentils instead). Add veggies like tomatoes or pumpkin for fiber and vitamin C, and of course coconut oil or ghee or coconut cream for good fats.

    If, at any point, you feel overwhelmed by all this information (perhaps, some déjà vu from your Science period in school?!), switch off your device and put it away. Return to this article later when you feel like it. We’re here to guide you with verified and accurate information, but remember to trust your instinct in equal measure.

    Next week, we’ll continue this healthy journey of key nutrients with Vitamins and Calcium.