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Keeping Infants Healthy: The Power Of Well-Planned Complementary Feeding


Complementary feeding (often called weaning) is the introduction of solid foods into the diet of a baby who is only consuming breast milk or formula milk.

A child’s early years are crucial for rapid growth and development. At birth, an infant’s brain is around one-third the size of an adult brain, but it grows faster. As per the growth flow, on an average most infants will double their birthweight by the age of six months and later on by 2.5 to 3 times up to 12 months. During this time period complementary feeds are provided.

Complementary feeding (often called weaning) is the introduction of solid foods into the diet of a baby who is only consuming breast milk or formula milk. It is a gradual process but, by the time they are a year old, most children will be eating regular food, but well mashed and without any spice. We need to introduce complementary feeding to children so they are able to get all of the nutrients they need. Moreover, biting and chewing also help to develop the muscles needed for speech development. At or around six months old, a child’s body stores of some nutrients, such as iron, start to run out. That is why this is the best time to introduce additional solids/semi-solids into their diet.

The key nutrients to be focused on at this time are as follows-

  • Essential protein – for normal growth and development of muscles and bones in children. The best sources include meat, fish, dairy foods, poultry, eggs, beans, pulses. There’s no need to delay introduction of these foods if weaning starts at around six months of age, though everything should be provided in cooked form.
  • Good fibre intake– Increased faecal bulk and acceleration of intestinal transit. Sources include fruit, vegetables, wholegrain cereals. Fibre targets vary age by age and on an average 15g/day is recommended.
    • Calcium- Normal growth and development of bone in children. Abundant in dairy foods, green leafy vegetables.
    • Iron – An important nutrient for making red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. Sources include red meat, fortified cereals, green leafy vegetables, beans and pulses.
    •  Zinc – Helps the maintenance of normal bones and raising the immunity of baby. Majorly found in fish, poultry, meat, cheese, beans, sprouts etc. Zinc absorption is lower from plant foods compared with meat and fish so the latter are always a better source.
    • Vitamin A– Helps the immune system work properly, helps vision and keeps skin healthy. Found in cheese, yellow and orange vegetables
    • Vitamin D– Important for normal development of bones, teeth and muscles, and is proven to support normal immune function. Best sources include fish, eggs, flaxseeds and walnuts.

    The weaning process must focus on the consistency of the prepared meal: thicker consistency with some lumps; soft finger foods can also be introduced at this stage. Mashed, chopped, minced consistency for example boiled salad/fruit smoothie/porridge/cereals with milk or curd/fruit yoghurt are best. Also, each meal should preferably be low in quantity at low but given frequently through the day.

One of the major struggles every mother face is the immunity issues for their kids. They are often worried about how to strengthen their kid’s immunity, especially in the winter season.

It is essential to balance immunity by trying natural immunity foods that serve multiple purposes.

As the temperatures begin to drop, sleeping in cosy comforters and wearing several layers and warm jackets won’t be enough for your little ones. Moreover, they feel uncomfortable in excessive layers and it becomes difficult to control them in one place. Eating healthy winter foods help keep your kids, disease-free and warm.

Here are 7 foods to include in your kid’s diet:

1. Jaggery
Jaggery adds an exotic flavour to every sweet dish and acts as a great remedy for cough, cold or lung infection. A combination of ginger/ saunf adds to the health benefits. Not only is jaggery healthier than sugar but it also keeps you warm during the chilly winter season. We can try jaggery laddo; with payasam/Pongal; jaggery chapatti; or gurcoated soya sticks etc.

2. Soups
Nothing works better than a hot bowl/ mug of soup on a cold wintery day. Soups are one of the best foods to keep your kids warm during winters and maintaining their digestive system. You can include these vegetables in soups: -spinach/celery/broccoli/mushroom/broccoli/beans/beetroot etc or lentils as the base or even non-vegetarian options such as chicken or mutton sticks

3. Eggs

Did you know an egg a day keeps a doctor away? Eating eggs fulfil protein, nutrient requirements and also constitute a healthy diet in winters. There are several recipes which have become popular amongst mothers, such as vegetable bread omelette; scrambled egg; poached eggs; fried vegetable eggs Carrots/beetroot/broccoli/ turnips etc.
These veggies can be consumed in multiple forms like halwa/ kheer/ fries/ salads as they all are loaded with vitamin-A content that protects your kid from infections and allergies. Also, it promotes digestion.

4. Sweet potato
Sweet potato tastes best when eaten after being roasted on the pan. The first step is to boil in water, peel off the skin and then serve hot with a pinch of chaat masala or with a thin layer of ghee or as halwa with jaggery.

5. Jowar/ragi/bajra/makka pancakes
These rotis are a healthy substitute to try in winters. You can serve it with curd, ghee and jaggery or with dhal/ saag. Or else, go for modified chapatti pizza, replacing it with this nutritious base.

6. Amla/oranges/kiwi/ kino

These are rich supplements of Vitamin C which are extremely nutritious and can also be prepared as a candy or as chapatti stuffing. It enhances immunity which is crucial for treating common flu and fight Covid-19 effectively.

7. Nuts
Nuts are one of the best foods that keep you warm and energetic during winters. Grab some cashews, almonds, peanuts, pistachios and walnuts to stay healthy the entire season. Even kids love nuts and including them in the diet will improve their metabolism. They serve as perfect snacks throughout the day.


Our diets, and hence our nutrition, are often influenced by the perception about certain foods that are handed down to us by our elders and peers.

We’ve heard of body-shaming, fat-shaming, and other unkind and politically incorrect forms of criticizing people for their appearance or behaviour.

But how many of us have heard of “food shaming?”

Food shaming occurs when we have a certain perception –good or bad– about particular foods, and then try and adapt not just our own diets, but those of others according to those perceptions. Studies have shown that as a result of this “good” or “bad” reference, a feeling of shame or regret can occur when certain foods are consumed, which in turn can lead to disordered eating or unhealthy food habits. So it is important that we refrain from using judgmental or derogatory words while describing food. An important part of avoiding food shaming is to teach others/ your family and friends about right foods in a non-judgmental, positive way, and explain that some while some foods are more nutritious and help our bodies grow stronger; others may taste good but do not necessarily help us grow, or in fact might even cause us harm.

And while it applies to adults too, children are particularly vulnerable to food shaming.

Many of us do not even realize that we are creating a negative connotation to foods which could actually result in eating disorders. Hence we need to consciously avoid certain phrases, particularly when talking to children. For example:

“You didn’t eat enough. Take a few more bites and you can be done.” (“You didn’t eat enough” equates to: “Don’t listen to your body, listen to me instead.”)

“Finish your food. There are starving kids around us.” (This can make a child feel guilty and thus eat more than he or she really wanted)

“If you eat all your dinner, you can have dessert/ you can watch a video.” (In a way, we are teaching children that dessert is the best part or video comes as a reward But what if dinner were the best part?)

“Eat whatever you want, whenever you want.” (This can be just as damaging, as we are giving no guidelines, and because until a certain age, children need to be served nutritious meals at proper meal times.)

Instead, perhaps we could use terms that children can easily relate to, such as “grow strong foods,” “sporty foods,” “run-fast foods,” “keep-you-from-getting-sick foods,” or “beautiful hair /
skin foods.” We can ask questions like: “What will offer you the most fuel / power for what you are doing today?”

These foods-in-action terms will mean more to a child than catch-all phrases like “health foods” or “junk food.” After all, even pizzas can be made nutritious.

For those who believe that this is a particularly urban phenomenon, think again. For instance, mothers in rural areas often force children to drink their glass of milk, even if the child happens to be lactose intolerant, because in their eyes, milk is “good.” But while we can forgive their ignorance, we should not ignore it when we see it happening around us.

In fact, whether we are vegetarians, vegans or carnivores is often based not just on our upbringing, religion and environment, but also on the subliminal and often direct messages we receive as children to reinforce these perceptions of our parents, elders and community.

As adults, we have collected attitudes toward food and the ideal body shape that are often unintentionally passed down to our children, and in turn, to their children. While you cannot control all the messages your children hear, you can do your best to set an example and teach your children about how certain foods act upon their bodies and minds. This will allow you focus more on their character or accomplishments, instead of the size and shape of their unique bodies.

(The author is a health coach and diet counsellor @.


Children being fussy eaters is an oft-heard complaint of parents, especially those with kids in the 5-10 years age group as by then they would have developed definite food preference. If you have young children at home, you must be familiar with the struggle of making your child gulp down even a glass of milk; sneak in healthy vegetables in dishes and push them to eat fruits; blackmail them into eating another serving of rice or an added chappati. This struggle includes efforts to maintain the hydration level in your kids.

As with growing age, it becomes a bit difficult to convince your child to eat healthy. Moreover, apart from keeping a check on the nutrition intake, it is also more important to ensure that they are engaged in sports and other physical activities including daily walks.

The global prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity has increased from 4.2% in 1990 to 6.7% in 2010. And this trend is expected to continue and may reach up to 9.1%, or around 60 million children in 2020. In developing countries, the problem is more worrying as the combined prevalence rate was estimated as 6.1% in 2010. It may reach 8.6% in 2020.

Nutrition management

In terms of nutrition, for kids it works on the same principles as for adults. Everyone needs the same types of nutrients — vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Children, however, need different amounts of specific nutrients at different ages, depending on their body weight. Preference for junk food and social effect also increases in this age group, leading to serious health issues and majorly to obesity.

1. Firstly stop dependency on sweets

The higher intake of soft drinks, bakery, and refined products leads to increase in carbohydrate or carbs load in the diet. On the contrary, the carbs intake majorly from the complex sources like whole wheat, rice, millets, in order to increase the fibre content in diet, helps to boost the metabolism.

2. Take part in extra curriculum activities

Few kids in this age group start avoiding games and other extra-curricular activities because of pressure to attain good marks in studies. Just sitting and studying for longer duration leads to poor digestion because of weak bowel moment. This further leads to serious gastric issues at an early age.

3. Include fruits and vegetables in diet

Kids avoid carrying extra tiffin in the form of fruit or salad which is very much needed for a healthy body. Missing out on required intake of fruits and vegetables has many health consequences.

4. Drink plentiful water

While engaged in physical activities whether sports or dancing or any other joyful activity, children often forget to drink water. It is advisable to add water breaks or reminders in the form of lunch breaks. This will help in developing habit of consuming water or any other form of liquid whether juices or buttermilk or other healthy nutritive drinks at intervals.

4. Adding nutrition in the lunch box

Lunch box is a good opportunity for parents to provide interesting and nutritive food that would appeal to young children. This could be in the form of atta with stuffing of pulses, milk or milk products, eggs, tofu for increasing the protein intake. To make this important meal palatable and help children develop healthy eating habit, parents should provide varied fare as a routine.

In general, as per the recommended dietary allowance kids between the age group of 5-10 years require 1500-1700 kcal — 1.1-1.3 gm of protein/ kg of body weight, 30 gm of healthy fats, 600 mg of calcium and lastly good amount of iron/ vitamin D and ascorbic acid supplement in their diet, preferably through natural foods.

Healthy recipe for you:

Banana Sushi



-Peanut Butter


-Pomegranate Arils


-Slice a banana into 1 inch sections.

-Use a grapefruit knife to cut out the center of each banana slice.

-Fill the hole with peanut butter or press blueberries into the hole.

-Sprinkle both types of sushi with pomegranate arils.

Your teenager will go through several growth spurts during 11-18 years, which requires that they be given special attention on all aspects related to physical and mental development. Nutrition for adolescents means giving them enough nutrients rather than only complete nutrition. This is crucial for them to attain optimum genetic growth in term of height and weight and mental development.

Secondly, as they enter puberty and undergo a lot of hormonal changes also, it is a stage in life when they are very inclined to favour a more social life as also binging on unhealthy and processed food items. It is therefore crucial to ensure that your ward is continuing to eat healthy and nutritive foods while engaging in regular physical activities and not merely focusing on studies to make the grade for future career goals. Further, it is important to make sure that they have a wide choice of healthy food for snacks and meals to keep abreast of the nutritional requirement of their body.


Nutrition management

As we all know, pressure of studies increases manifold at this stage of life. In a way this also effects the hormonal balance in the body. The pressure of exams and aspiration to get selection in the desired stream (science/arts/ commerce) is the ultimate goal for most of the children. In this scenario, the role of balanced nutrition is very important. The calories and protein intake requirement of a teenager depends on the age, weight and physical activity of an individual. The calories and protein needed for growth are higher if your teenager is active in sports or if he or she is following any fitness programme. In addition, the calorie and protein requirement varies according to the gender.

Desired calorie requirement

From 11 to 14 years : about 45 to 55 calories per kg body weight

Age 15 to 18 years : about 40 to 45 calories per kg body weight

This corresponds to around, 2000 kcal to 2800 kcal for boys; 1900 kcal to 2400 kcal for girls.

-Protein intake

If the child is obese, there is a tendency among teens to strive to reduce weight by cutting down on calorie intake. Instead, teens should focus on good protein intake. For this age group, it is advisable to consume at least 1 -1.2 gm of protein/ kg of body weight. This also helps in the repair of worn out tissues. By adding besan/ragi/bajra atta to normal wheat atta or simply mixing the boiled daal/panner in chapattis we can increase the protein intake.

-Proper intake of vitamins and minerals

During our growing years, we do experience some metabolic and digestion issues. In this case, it is of utmost importance to boost your immunity with diet rich in antioxidants, essentials vitamins and minerals derived from fruits.

-Changing food habits

Teenagers are often very busy with school, work and sports schedules. It is very important to help them in planning their day if they not going to be home for meals. It is important to send them from home with healthy snacks or packed lunches loaded with nutrition. This will help them in avoiding “junk” food or high fat foods.

It is important to inculcate in teens the habit of eating food by setting example. Also praise their good food choices whenever you can. Try not to be critical about their appearance at this time of life, as they can easily become too worried about their body image. Eating too much or too little is harmful, so a balanced diet is very essential.

Easy snacks for kids

To make meals more tempting for teens, a few easy to make and healthy fun food options are home-made multigrain bread pizza loaded with vegetables, sprouts, stuffed sauté baby idlis, bajra and ragi mix atta momos or dumplings, hung-curd or humus multigrain sandwiches among others. While being appealing, this type of food will add to the overall nutrient content in the kids’ diet.