For infants aged 6 to 8 months, their first foods are usually pureed, mashed or given semi-solid. However, since most of the weaning information on the internet is much more western, a lot of parents end up starting their babies with ingredients that are not even local to Malaysia.
Naturally, in this internet age, parents would look up to those methods since they are backed by research and science. Things like the single food type and 3-day wait rule for allergy elimination have proven to be effective over the generations. As a result, fewer parents are preparing the humble Asian porridge, even though they are just as nutritious, and opting for ingredients like carrots, pumpkins and pears.
Of course, we are not discounting that every food is nutritious in their own right. We’re just saying that we have local produce (can link to 5 grains or the local fruits article) that are just as good, if not better.
Here are 6 local vegetables that can be added into your baby’s first porridge.
Spinach or bayam is a common vegetable that is usually introduced during weaning. Although some paediatricians insist that parents wait until their baby is 8-10 months, others say offering spinach puree between 6-7 months of age is completely fine too.
Spinach is a popular choice because it is an amazing source of Calcium. Just 1 cup of cooked spinach is equivalent to 42 mg of calcium. The red spinach also contains a respectable amount of Vitamin A, Iron and Selenium too. This simple leafy green is packed with a lot of nutrients, calcium and vitamins essential for brain and bone development.
Believe it or not, the Kai-Lan is a vegetable that is from the same species as the cauliflower or broccoli. So why offer broccoli when you can also offer chopped Kai-Lan, especially with all that dark leafy green packed with goodness? It is rich in nutrients like beta-carotene, calcium, manganese, potassium, and magnesium along with high amounts of vitamins K, C, A, B9 and B2. Because of that, it is a natural antioxidant and is anti-inflammatory. Furthermore, the humble Kai-Lan contains higher levels of vitamin C compared to that of an orange, which is great for boosting immunity! It also provides your baby with all the dietary fibre that he or she needs to beat constipation which is a common problem when weaning.
Another great addition to the list is the humble Bok choy which is an excellent source of vitamin A. Just one cup of this popular Asian vegetable and you would already hit 60 percent of your daily requirement. Like most green vegetables, it is also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin E and beta-carotene which are powerful antioxidants that protect your baby’s cells against damage by free radicals. Aside from being a good source of dietary fibre, what makes the Bok choy stand out from the rest of the vegetables is that it contains folate which plays an important role in the production and repairing of DNA. It also contains Selenium which prevents inflammation and decreases tumour growth rates.
While the Choy Sum might be a popular dish on most Asian dining tables, it is probably the last thing you would think to add to your baby’s porridge thanks to their rather “green” after taste. A member of the Mustard family, its green leaves are juicy and tender. Rich in pro-vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin K, calcium and dietary fibre, it is also a great source of Magnesium, Potassium and folic acid. It is surprisingly high in calcium and iron too, two essential nutrients needed by your developing baby. However, it is thanks to their lower levels of oxalic acid which is not found in most vegetables which allows for better absorption of these two nutrients.
Uncommon but not impossible, it might never cross your mind to introduce kangkung or water spinach to your baby. But you really shouldn’t underestimate this vegetable because it is packed with vitamins and minerals. High in beta-carotene, natural antioxidants, and dietary fibres, it is also extremely rich in electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium. The large presence of vitamin A and the other minerals found in their leaves will give your baby that extra boost of immunity while the added Iron will ensure the continuous formation of haemoglobin.
You don’t have to limit gourds to pumpkins alone, just because the sweetness from the pumpkin makes a delicious meal for your precious one. The bottle gourd is regarded as one of the healthiest veggies because of their high water content, which is extremely hydrating. It also provides your baby with all the nutrients and minerals need for him or her to grow. It might not get as much attention as it deserves, but the bottle gourd is a rich source of vitamin C, K and calcium. They can be cooked into a mush which makes it easier for your little one to consume. It is also great for bringing down bad cholesterol while stabilizing blood sugar levels. Known as a cooling vegetable, the water and fibre content is a big help to your baby’s digestive tract and allows easy bowel movement.
There are a couple of solid reasons why you should introduce these nutritious greens first before offering fruits. The whole point is to develop their palates so that they can learn to enjoy having greens with a savoury porridge before they are introduced to sweeter options like fruits. Using local ingredients also mean they are fresher, thanks to their short farm to table process. There are organic options that parents can choose from, although regular vegetables are fine as well. Just soak them and clean them really well before cooking.
Parents can still apply the single food type and 3-day wait rule to eliminate any possible food allergies. And remember to stick to the leaves only in the beginning so that they are easier to puree.