Weaning your baby – The Afternoon Show

Weaning Your Baby can be a daunting experience…but here are a few tips to guide you

Introducing solids into your baby’s diet is a vital step in ensuring all their nutritional needs are met, therefore allowing adequate growth and development. Many parents worry about when the best time is to start weaning as there is so much conflicting information out there. The weaning process should not commence before the baby is 4 months of age/17 weeks and not later than 6 months/26 weeks. Whenever you decide to wean your baby, it’s important to understand that weaning is a gradual process that calls for patience and understanding from both you and your child.

Early weaning (less than 4 months) is not recommended since research shows a link with the development of food allergies and intolerances as well as possible obesity during childhood. Therefore for the infant’s safety and later growth and development, all expert groups advise milk, either breast milk or formula milk, as the infants sole source of nutrition during the first 4 – 6 months of life.

The weaning period is seen as a ‘window of opportunity’ in that a variety of foods can be offered along with different tastes, textures, flavours along with rougher food consistencies in the later stages. It is important for the infant to meet ‘the key milestones’ during this critical time to prevent any faddy eating later on. When solids are introduced before six months you are only getting the baby used to different tastes and textures and their main nutrition is still being provided by the milk. The amounts of solids taken are built up slowly then over many weeks.

This is a completely new mystifying experience for your baby. Although sucking is a natural reflex, babies need to be ready to learn the new skill of pushing food to the back of their mouth with their tongues and swallowing. When starting the weaning process try to make it a special time between you and your baby rather than a chore. Choose a time of day when you can give plenty of time and energy to the task and that you are not liable to be distracted. Midday is usually considered a good time to start and if possible try to feed your baby at the same time daily to establish a routine. As babies are used to food coming in a steady stream they can find the gap between mouthfuls frustrating so it is a good idea to offer some milk before feeding so that they are not frantically hungry.

Despite all the guidelines the best indicator of when to start solids is your baby. If your baby was sleeping well at night-time and begins waking earlier or during the night it is a good indicator your baby is ready for solids to be introduced. Other indications may include:
• Your baby sitting up and holding his or her head up. This means your baby will be able to sit in an
upright position for feeding.
• If your baby is looking at or trying to grab food it could mean he or she is ready to move on to
solids.
• If your baby is irritable when finished their milk feed and appears to be still hungry this is another
indication that they may need more feed.

Initially your baby will only have a tiny amount of food and more than likely will spit it back out
but remember this is a new experience for them and it’s going to be messy! Just offer them a few spoonfuls and remember to chat and smile with them while feeding. After a few days your baby will begin to get used to this new experience and the texture of food and will have learnt how to swallow foods. Once you and your baby have become more confident and used to this new feeding regime you can try gradually incorporating solids into other mealtimes.

Initial foods to introduce can include pureed fruits and vegetables along with mashed potato or baby rice. Avoid adding butter, salt or salt derivative, sugar or any other processed addition to your baby’s foods. Babies’ taste buds are much more astute than ours and they can detect sweetness in vegetables that we cannot. Begin by offering a few teaspoons daily and aim to increase the portions and the types of food offered over a few weeks. The initial consistency should be pureed and as the weaning progresses aim to mince/mash the foods then in final stages a choppier consistency should be well accepted. Home prepared foods are great and it can be a good idea to get a good balance between offering home prepared foods with commercial infant foods to avoid fussiness in the future.

Following the six month stage, gluten can be introduced into the diet along with beaker cup use. Try to give very diluted unsweetened juices in the beaker cup (one part juice: four parts water) rather than very sweetened juices. Parents should be aware that the ‘types’ of foods offered in the first year of life can in fact lay the foundations for their later food preferences. So frequently offering sugary foods such as biscuits, chocolate along with sweetened desserts is a pattern the infant will become accustomed to, and so will preferentially develop a taste for sweet rather than savoury foods.

Ideas for first weaning foods include;
• Baby rice;
• Baby porridge (this will contain gluten so avoid giving until 6 months or more);
• Rusks;
• Puree fruit e.g. apples, pears;
• Mashed potato or sweet potato with formula or breast milk
• Pureed vegetables e.g. broccoli, carrot, cauliflower, spinach, courgette, turnip, peas, beans and
parsnip;
• Pureed meat, pureed chicken;
• Melted cheese after 6 months
• Yoghurt, custard, fromage frais after 6 months

Don’t be afraid to combine flavours. There are great ideas in cookbooks including combinations like pear and butternut squash mixed together or another one that babies often love is banana and avocado mixed together which provides lots of calories and vitamin E. Be careful that you don’t force your own tastes on your baby. E.g. if you don’t like parsnip do offer it to your child to give them an opportunity to develop their own likes and dislikes. Exposing your child to lots of tastes from early on will help reduce the risk of a fussy eater later on.

Once your baby is eating a wider range of foods you can start introducing lumpier textures. Chewing and swallowing lumpier food is linked to speech development so is an important milestone. By 7-8 months your baby will start to pick things up with her thumb and finger and transfer objects from one hand to another. This is a good time to encourage your baby to start feeding themselves by offering them finger foods between meals as snacks. Slices of banana, fingers of toast, baby rusks or cubes of cheese are good examples to start off with. It will be quite a messy so be prepared! Remember you don’t have to wait until your baby has teeth. Some babies don’t get their first tooth until they are 18 months and others may start at 3 months. Every baby is different. Sit with them while you offer them finger foods and never leave your child unattended at this feeding stage in case they begin to choke.

At this stage your child should be eating three meals per day. The quantity of their intake will vary but your baby will be able to enjoy a wide variety of tastes at this stage. Try to make mealtimes a sociable occasion and let your child join you at mealtimes instead of them eating alone. Once a baby reaches 12 months they should be having a similar diet to the family and partake in all mealtimes. As babies have smaller stomachs than us and they do eat smaller portions so try to include regular healthy snacks in the diet for energy. About a third of their daily calories will come from snacks so make sure they offer some nutritional value. Good tooth friendly snacks include;

Vegetable sticks
Fruit (frozen fruit can be good if they are teething)
Cheese
Mini-sandwiches
Mini-muffins
Dried fruit
No added sugar rusks or biscuits
Toast fingers with houmous or cream cheese and many more.

Although all nutrients are important in your Childs diet iron deficiency is common among Irish toddlers. Children are born with a 6 month supply of iron in the diet and that is one of the reasons it is important to start the weaning process no later than 6 months. Iron requirements until the age of two are very high especially from 6-12 months. Although green vegetables and pulses are great sources of iron red meat is an excellent source and mixes well with root vegetables, potatoes and pasta. Sometimes babies don’t like the texture of meat initially but after a few exposures to it they get used to the new chewier texture. Try to include a variety of iron rich foods like beef, lamb, spinach, kidney beans and lentils into the diet and incorporate them in to the family diet. Remember kids learn from example and if you don’t eat a healthy balanced diet there is a good chance your child won’t either!

Once you start weaning try to establish a routine. The initial period is important as future feeding behaviours are established during the weaning process including the schedule or routine of the infant’s meals/feeds, which can in turn affect later feeding behaviour. For example if an infant is accustomed to eating at irregular times and on demand, rather than having a routine and established daily meal schedule, this will program them to continue this ‘grazing’ pattern throughout infancy and childhood potentially leading to stressful mealtimes!

Memory Nutritional Tips – The Afternoon Show Brain Academy

In January 2008 I worked with 10 volunteers on the Afternoon Show where we tried to improve their memory. Here are some memory nutritional tips that we gave the volunteers;

1. Include at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables per day and ensure that you have a variety of
coloured vegetables.
2. Eat something green daily…e.g. spinach, broccoli, green beans, peas etc
3. Include lentils, beans and nuts in the diet regularly.
4. Avoid adding sugar to your diet – that includes honey and sugar derivatives
5. Eat breakfast daily and base it around a slow releasing carbohydrate like oats or unsweetened
muesli.
6. Add a tablespoon of lecithin granules to your breakfast cereal daily
7. Include seeds in your diet daily. To get the right balance of omega-3 and omega-6 in the diet, fill
a jar half a jar with 1part sesame seeds, 1 part sunflower seeds and 1 part pumpkin seeds and fill
the other half of the jar with 3 parts linseed. Mix them together and add 1-2 dessertspoons to
your cereal each morning. You could try grinding the seeds down in a coffee grinder to maximise
the availability of the essential fats.
8. Include oily fish in the diet at least twice per week
9. Use hempseed oil for your salad dressing
10. Take a B complex supplement daily
11. Avoid fried and deep fried foods. Avoid any produce containing hydrogenated fat.
12. Keep alcohol to within sensible limits and aim for at least 3-4 alcohol free days per week
13. Limit tea and coffee intake to 2-3 cups per day and never with your meals
14. Chose dark chocolate with a greater than 70% coco content. This is a much lower sugar way of
getting a chocolate fix.
15. Eat regularly and never skip meals
16. Incorporate activity into your daily routine
17. Avoid tea or coffee with breakfast opt for some herbal tea
18. Include 5-7 eggs in the diet per week.

Can food affect our mood?

Many of us underestimate the impact of what we eat on our health, energy levels, motivation and mood. Think about it…how often do you choose to eat something ‘nice’ to make you feel better? Why it is that sweets and chocolates are so comforting? We’ve all witnessed how a sweet can placate a child and likewise how chocolate can calm an adult. There is actually a science behind this…sugar and fat cause the brain to release endorphins that deliver pleasure signals all over the body. Probably the most common choice of food to improve mood is chocolate. That is because chocolate contains a group of alkaloids and specifically a substance called theobromine that can induce a feeling of pleasure.  Some researchers now speculate that chocoholics may actually have a real biological basis with serotonin deficiency being one factor. However despite these apparent benefits chocolate isn’t necessarily the answer to improving our overall mood! Choosing the right foods and getting the right balance in the diet can actually benefit not only our health but our mood too.

Carbohydrate rich foods trigger the production of serotonin and tryptophan which are chemicals that the brain produces that promote a feeling of well-being. However the type of carbohydrate you consume can influence your mood. Refined carbohydrates, primarily sugar and sugary foods, tend to provide immediate, but temporary relief. Once the benefit is gone, you may go looking for more foods to bring up your mood and energy level. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, cereals, breads, pastas, and fruits and vegetables, are more likely to supply a moderate, but lasting effect on brain chemistry, mood, and energy level.

We know that B-complex vitamins are essential to mental and emotional well-being. They are considered essential vitamins. This means the body cannot make them, so we depend on our daily diet to supply them. B vitamins can be destroyed by alcohol, refined sugars, nicotine and caffeine so it is no surprise that many people in Ireland may be deficient in these.

Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is used by the brain to help convert sugar in to fuel and without it the brain rapidly runs out of energy. Increased irritability and depression are frequently reported in studies where diets are too low in vitamin B1. Too many refined carbohydrates, such as simple sugars can drain the body’s B1 supply. Good dietary sources of vitamin B1 include rye flour, liver and wholegrains.

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) aids in the processing of amino acids, which are the building blocks of all proteins and some hormones. It is needed in the manufacture of serotonin, the hormone which helps us feel good. An inadequate intake of vitamin B6 may produce subtle changes in mood. Some research indicates that people who suffer from depression have low levels of vitamin B6. Bananas, oats and eggs are good source of vitamin B6 so having a banana on your porridge in the morning is a good idea.

Another member of the B group of vitamins that is can impact our mood is vitamin B12. Low levels of vitamin B12 can cause mood swings. However deficiencies do take a long time to develop, since the body stores a three- to five-year supply in the liver. Deficiencies tend to more common in vegetarians as our main dietary sources of vitamin B12 are meat, dairy produce, eggs, seaweed and fish.

Folic acid deficiency can cause mood changes also. Folic acid deficiency is a relatively common vitamin deficiency mainly as the best source are green vegetables which are poorly consumed in Ireland. Good sources of folic acid include green vegetables, malt drinks like Ovaltine and dairy produce. Trying to include a green vegetable daily is one sure way of improving your folic acid intake.

Your mineral status is also very important, particularly selenium and iron. Poor mood is associated with a low selenium intake. Many of us are not getting enough of this nutrient in our diets. Selenium rich foods include nuts, seeds, wholegrains, liver and shellfish. Iron deficiency anaemia is associated with lethargy, problems of sustaining attention and poor mood. Ensuring a good intake of iron rich foods is important like lean red meat, dark green vegetables and pulses.

 

Macronutrients also play an important role in our mood. Macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Recent research has indicated the importance of essential fatty acids omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in helping protect against depression and helping those already suffering from depression. The type of fat we eat has a big influence on our brain, our concentration and how we feel. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered a good fat and the best sources include oily fish, nuts and seeds, functional foods like omega milk and omega-3 spreads can be good options for those who don’t like fish.

 

Protein rich foods are also important.  The old adage of hot milk before bed can actually help relax you. Dairy foods contain an amino acid called tryptophan which is involved in manufacturing serotonin.

So it seems clear that what we eat can indeed influence our mood. Eating greens daily will help boost our intake of B vitamins, a banana a day will provide vitamin B6, nuts will give us essential omega-3 fatty acids and selenium and of course a nice cup of hot coco before bed will combine the calming benefits of milk with the feel good pleasures of chocolate too!

Nutrition & Breast Cancer – September 2007

Breast cancer is all too common today and can be a very difficult time for those undergoing treatment. They is lots of advice out there about what we can do to help ourselves during treatment or to prevent getting breast cancer. We covered a piece on RTE’s the Afternoon Show where we tried to offer some general guidelines to people out there. Hopefully it will provide some useful information for you…

The risk of developing cancer is dependent on many factors including age, family history and unquestionably our environment and particularly our diet also plays a role. Eating certain foods might decrease your chances of developing cancer, reduce the likelihood of recurrence or help slow down progression of the disease.

Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer in Irish women after non-melanoma skin cancer. The risk increases with age; 1 in 12 Irish women are at risk of developing the disease before the age of 75.

Preventing Breast Cancer

1. Maintain a healthy weight; avoid being underweight or overweight.

2. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits. Try to eat at least five portions a day of a variety of
vegetables and fruits.

3. Drink alcohol only in moderation; aim to drink less than two drinks in an evening.

4. Be physically active

5. Choose a diet rich in a variety of plant-based foods including pulses, nuts, and seeds

6. Select foods naturally low in fat i.e. avoid high fatty foods like crisps, takes-aways or fatty cuts
of meat

7. Avoid salty foods and adding salt to your food e.g. processed meals, crisps, packet soups and
sauces.

8. Avoid smoking

Common dietary issues during treatment;

How you feel during your cancer treatment will depend on the type of treatment you have, the duration of it and whether you have had treatment previously.

Nausea +/- vomiting is one of the most common complaints among cancer patients. Management of nausea and vomiting depends on the severity of the symptoms. Milder cases can often be treated by consuming small meals frequently, avoiding offensive odors, drinking enough fluids, and getting fresh air. In more serious cases of nausea, little and often is the best approach. Cold fluids are often easier to tolerate than foods so drinks of a high calorific value are beneficial. E.g. 7 up/ lucozade with the fizz taken out.

If you have a loss of appetite there are a few simple steps you can take;
1. Eat more when you feel the hungriest.
2. Eat small portions, use a side plate. This way you get the satisfaction of finishing a meal. You can
always go back for more.
3. Eat little and often e.g. every 2-3 hours as opposed to 3 large meals per day.
4. Eat the foods you enjoy the most.
5. Drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of fluids daily to avoid dehydration. Sip fluids frequently between
meals and try to chose fluids with some calorific value
6. Try drinking chilled or frozen fluids. Freeze drinks in ice cube trays or as ice-pops

Constipation; Infrequent or hard, dry stools may occur either as a side effect of medications or changed dietary habits. To alleviate symptoms you need to;

1. Increase the amount of soluble fibre in the diet i.e. fruit & vegetables, pulses, oats and seeds
(particularly linseed).
2. Try to have porridge for breakfast
3. Increase fluid intake.
4. Drink a probiotic yogurt drink. The probiotics help to regulate the rhythm of the bowel e.g. yakult

It can be difficult coping with weight changes. For those who lose weight it is important to encourage them to eat little and often, to drink fluids of a calorific value and occasionally try nutritional supplements. For patients who gain weight during treatment it is important to reassure them that they should not restrict their calorie intake at this time and they can lose weight once all treatments have finished. Whether a patient loses or gains weight it can be very sensitive and difficult issue for the individual. If you have any concerns regarding your weight you ask to see a dietitian.

Eating after breast cancer

Once you have finished treatment it is a good idea to focus on a long-term balanced low fat diet. Try to maintain a healthy weight and keep active.

1. Eat at least five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily
2. Choose healthy fats. Healthy fats include omega-3 fatty acids that are in oily fish, nuts and seeds
and avoid unhealthy fats like saturated fats or Trans fats.
3. Chose naturally low fat protein rich foods such as fish, lean meats, eggs, nuts, seeds, tofu, miso
and legumes
4. Opt for high fibre carbohydrates, such as whole grains, oats and sweet potato

This combination of foods will ensure that you’re eating plenty of the vitamins and nutrients you need to help make your body strong.

After treatment for breast cancer many women will begin menopause and find themselves struggling with menopausal symptoms. Menopause occurs when the ovaries cease to produce their usual amount of oestrogen. Effects on the body include Changes in body weight and body shape, hot flushes, disturbed sleep pattern and health changes. Each woman responds to menopause in her own unique way. To reduce the risk of hot flushes avoid triggers like alcohol, caffeine, hot spicy food and smoking.

Boosting the immune system

Whether you are preparing for or recovering from treatment it is very important to try and boost the immune system as much as possible.

Antioxidants have disease-fighting properties that protect cells from damage by substances called free radicals. Antioxidants work by neutralizing free radicals that are formed when body cells burn oxygen for energy. Antioxidants help keep the immune system healthy and reduce the risk for cancer and other diseases. Antioxidants include;

1. Vitamin A which helps the body resist infection and protects against cell damage.
2. Vitamin C, which is thought to be the most important immune boosting nutrient, helps prevent cell
damage caused by free radicals.
3. Vitamin E is considered to be very important in heart health and protecting against certain
cancers particularly breast cancer.
4. Zinc; which is essential for a healthy immune system and resistance to infection, it helps with the
healing of wounds and is particularly important for healthy skin.

Many people are tempted to supplement their diet with large doses of vitamins at this time. It is always best to get nutrition from the food that we eat and if you are undergoing any treatment always ask your doctor or pharmacist about what vitamins if any are suitable for you to take.

Nutrition if you’re feeling low -The Afternoon Show Food Surgery 2007

Despite depression being thought of as a strictly emotional or biochemical disorder an unhealthy diet can play a role in depression and mood swings. Patterns that may aggravate our moods include skipping meals, poor appetite, and cravings for sweets.
Carbohydrate rich foods trigger the production of serotonin and tryptophan which are chemicals that the brain produces that promote a feeling of well-being. However the type of carbohydrate you consume can influence your mood. Refined carbohydrates, primarily sugar and sugary foods, tend to provide immediate, but temporary relief. Once the benefit is gone, you may go looking for more foods to bring up your mood and energy level. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, cereals, breads, pastas, and fruits and vegetables, are more likely to supply a moderate, but lasting effect on brain chemistry, mood, and energy level.

For example look at chocolate. Many people crave chocolate when they feel down. This can be attributed to certain alkaloids that have been isolated in chocolate that may raise brain serotonin levels. Some researchers now speculate that chocoholics may actually have a real biological basis with serotonin deficiency being one factor.

Beneficial Nutrients;

The B-Complex Vitamins

We know that B-complex vitamins are essential to mental and emotional well-being. They are considered essential vitamins. This means the body cannot make them, so we depend on our daily diet to supply them. B vitamins can be destroyed by alcohol, refined sugars, nicotine and caffeine so it is no surprise that many people in Ireland may be deficient in these.

Vitamin B1 (thiamine): The brain uses this vitamin to help convert blood sugar into fuel and without it the brain rapidly runs out of energy. This can lead to fatigue, depression and irritability. Too many refined carbohydrates, such as simple sugars can drain the body’s B1 supply.
Good sources of vitamin B1 include rye flour, liver and wholegrains

Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): Symptoms of deficiency are fatigue, chronic stress, and depression.
Good sources include mushrooms, eggs, and fish, liver

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): This vitamin aids in the processing of amino acids, which are the building blocks of all proteins and some hormones. It is needed in the manufacture of serotonin, melatonin and dopamine. An inadequate intake of vitamin B6 may produce subtle changes in mood. Some research indicates that people who are depressed have low levels of vitamin B6.
Good sources include; bananas, oats, potatoes, brown rice, pork and eggs

Vitamin B12 is important to red blood cell formation, deficiency leads to an oxygen-transport problem known as pernicious anemia. This disorder can cause mood swings, irritability and in extreme cases confusion and shortage of breath. However deficiencies do take a long time to develop, since the body stores a three- to five-year supply in the liver. Deficiencies tend to more common in elderly patients
Good sources include; meat, dairy produce, eggs, seaweed and fish

Folic acid deficiency can cause mood changes and depression. Folic acid deficiency is a relatively common vitamin deficiency mainly as the best source are green vegetables which are poorly consumed.
The best sources include green vegetables, ovaltine and dairy

Recent research has also indicated the importance of essential fatty acids omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in helping protect against depression and helping those already suffering from depression. Good sources include oily fish, nuts and seeds, functional foods like omega milk and omega-3 spreads

Negative nutrients for depression include sugary foods which can aggravate mood swings, alcohol which is a natural depressant and caffeine which can deplete your stores of B vitamins.

Summary

Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may play a role in mental wellbeing.
Eating breakfast regularly leads to improved mood, better memory, more energy and feelings of calmness.
Eating regular meals and nutritious afternoon snacks may improve cognitive performance.
Focus on a well-balanced diet, including plenty of leafy greens for folic acid, and bananas, avocado, chicken, greens, and whole grains for B6.
Eliminate caffeine-containing foods and beverages as much as possible.
Replace sweets with different varieties of fruit.
Drink plenty of water — 6-8 glasses per day.