What foods Improve Baby Bone Health?

By Nuttri EditorBaby Food Sciences

What foods Improve Baby Bone Health?

Why does Baby Bone Health Matter? Think of first steps and first sports games. Bones help us move, protect us from injury and support the entire body structure [1]. It turns out both good nutrition and regular physical activity, from infancy to adolescence, are linked to life-long bone health [1,2,3,4,5].

Our bones are not static - they are living tissues. Bone materials are constantly being removed and deposited. The rate of removal and deposition together affect the density and size of our bones. During infancy, the rate of bone tissue being deposited is much greater than it being removed, increasing its mass. This is a determining factor in reducing risk of fractures and osteoporosis later on: the higher the peak bone mass, the less chance of bone issues [1,2,3,4,5]. Lastly, promoting healthy bones can help your baby to reach his or her maximum potential height. Yes, while there is still a strong genetic component, high bone density can certainly influence the physical growth of your baby.

Key nutrients for healthy baby bones

  • Calcium: 99% of calcium in the body is stored in the skeleton. The intake of calcium, along with determining factors of calcium absorption/retention, can greatly affect bone density during infancy and onwards [2]. Taking the necessary amount of calcium for a baby’s age group (200 mg/d from 0-6 months, and 260 mg/d from 6-12 months) is key, not only for optimizing bone mass, but for growth as well [3].
  • Vitamin D helps us absorb the calcium we eat. If we don’t have adequate Vitamin D levels only 10-15% of the calcium consumed is absorbed and utilized by the body [2].
  • As well, a variety of nutrients and minerals including vitamin K, phosphorus and magnesium are involved in the process of building of healthy baby bones.

Foods that contain nutrients for healthy baby bones

  1. Breastmilk: No surprise here. This is the best source of calcium for babies [2,3]. Though most formulas and alternatives may contain the necessary levels of calcium, the bioavailability of those nutrients are lower than in human milk, and thus harder to absorb.
  2. Dairies: Once infants start eating solids, dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are all good sources of calcium.
  3. Leafy greens including broccoli provide a high bioavailability of calcium. An exception is spinach, which is high in oxalate that inhibit calcium absorption.
  4. Other Sources of Calcium: Almonds, calcium-fortified orange juice, fortified grains and soy products. They are all alternatives to traditional dairy options, especially for those who have lactose-intolerance [2,3,5].
  5. Vitamin D rich food: Mushrooms, fatty fishes and food fortified with Vitamin D [5].

It’s important to keep in mind that a diversity of foods is best when considering sources of nutrients, not only for bone mass/growth but also to shape babies’ palates and future eating habits. As well, one of the best sources to fill up on Vitamin D is exposing the skin to sunlight. Of course, direct sunlight isn't recommended to infants under 6 month, and that is why vitamin D supplements are recommended for infants.

Physical activity promotes healthy bones and growth

Besides nutrition, physical activities like walking, moving, and exercising also influence the growth and maintenance of bones [1,2,3]. Like muscles, bones need to be used in order to grow stronger. If not, they can deteriorate (Use it or lose it!). That doesn’t mean that a one-year-old needs to play soccer or else they’ll risk loss in bone density. Just make sure your child is moving around regularly, keeping his or her head up, and crawling or walking. These activities all contribute to making bones healthier and babies happier.


  1. https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/kids/healthy-bones
  2. Greer F, Krebs N, Committee on Nutrition. Calcium Requirements of Infants, Children, and Adolescents. Pediatrics. 2006;117(2).
  3. https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/juvenile
  4. Prentice A, Schoenmakers I, Laskey M, de Bono S, Ginty F, Goldberg G. Symposium on ‘Nutrition and health in children and adolescents’ Session 1: Nutrition in growth and development. Proc Nutr Soc. 2006;65(4): 348-360.
  5. Golden N, Abrams S, Committee on Nutrition. Optimizing Bone Health in Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics. 2014;134(4).

Should We Take Salt, Sugar, and Fat out of Baby Meals?

By Nuttri EditorBaby Food Sciences 2 Comments

Should We Take Salt, Sugar, and Fat out of Baby Meals?

The quick answer is not to add salt and sugar. Natural ingredients have enough sugar, salt, and fat. Fruit, milk and cereals naturally contain sugar. Meat, dairy, and seafood have more than enough salt. Meat, fish, dairy, and vegetables contain fat. You will eventually add salt or sugar as your baby grows, but delay it as much as possible. Fat is different though - babies need more fat to grow up!

Salt, Sugar and Fat ~12 months

Salt: Stay Away

Most references warn parents to be cautious of salt since a baby’s kidneys are not fully developed until 12 months [1,5]. Since processed foods like bread, protein rich food, and dairies contain salt, infants will get more than enough salt even if parents do their best not to give it to them [1,2].

Sugar: Go Natural

Babies have a natural tendency to like sweet flavors. Fruit and dairy contains lots of sugar, so it’s unlikely that babies will need any additional sugar. But natural sweetness in fruit can be used when you want to introduce bitter vegetables to babies [3]. Sugar can also be found in processed foods. It is even present in fruit juices without any added sugar. Experts suggest not to give infants any fruit juice due to its association with long-term health outcomes for infants such as obesity [4,5]. The simple solution is to give them water instead.

Fat: Don’t Limit

Fat, especially Omega 3, is known to be very important for infants’ brain development. Fat usually takes up 25-50% of an infant’s daily calorie intake. Full-fat dairy products are recommended once a baby starts eating solids. Avocados, cheese, yogurt, and hummus are also popular options. Saturated fat and cholesterol don’t need to be restricted. Over time, the best fat is DHA, a type of Omega 3, found in fatty fish such as salmon and sardines, as well as legumes. The only fat you really need to avoid is Trans fat.

Salt, Sugar and Fat: ~ 12-24 months

Salt: Go easy

Toddlers at 24 months have an even stronger preference for salty food than adults do [3]. Still, their system is not quite ready to take on a lot of salt [1]. Avoid adding too much salt when cooking. Be cautious of food products that already contain lots of salt, especially ham and sausages. Delay offering them as much as possible, and build a habit of reading food labels to watch for high sodium levels.

Sugar: Go Natural

Sugar has a strong association with long-term health outcomes such as obesity. Other than naturally sweet fruits, there’s no need to offer babies any sugary food. Introducing sweet foods containing added sugar (e.g. donuts, soda,...) at an early age can also cause children to have a stronger preference for sweets later on [3].

Fat: Don’t Limit - Yet!

At this point, fat usually takes up 25-40% of an infant’s daily calorie intake. The same principles are applied for children under 2 years old. For over 2 years old you can choose low fat dairy options [4,5]. Still, giving enough fat to children is important, especially Omega 3. Opt for more fish, legumes and nuts.

Without Salt, Sugar and Fat – Will It Taste Good?

With no salt or sugar, food can taste bland. But baby taste buds are more sensitive than grown-ups. Let them enjoy the natural flavors of fresh ingredients. You can use herbs and spices as they grow up to increase the complexity of flavor.


How to Reduce a Baby Food Allergy

By Nuttri EditorBaby Food Sciences

How to Reduce a Baby Food Allergy

Giving solids first time can be somewhat frightening to a lot of parents. The first fear factor is what if my baby is allergic to certain foods. It’s easy to think of avoiding any food that cause an allergy-like reaction, but science gives somewhat counter-intuitive advice to reduce the chance of a baby food allergy. The latest research and guidelines advise parents not to delay introducing common allergens like peanut to infants at weaning [1,7]. Now a lot of parents mix tiny bit of peanut butter to baby cereals as first food.

How do I discover baby food allergies?

  1. Some babies have a higher risk for food allergies:
    - If parents or siblings have allergies to any food or environment.
    - Babies with eczema are more likely to have food allergies [1,2]
  2. Allergic reactions include hives, skin rashes, itchiness, and face, tongue, or lip swelling, and vomiting. The symptoms usually develop within a few minutes to two hours [2]
  3. Most symptoms are mild, but severe reactions such as anaphylaxis and should be checked by a doctor [2,3,4,5,6].

Baby Food Allergy Myths

1. Babies should avoid taking common allergens?
Science says NOT to delay introducing common allergens as an early introduction may reduce the risk. Research has shown that an early introduction of peanuts and eggs actually reduce the chance of developing these food allergies [1,7]. This is what a lot of pediatricians are recommending for most babies. Of course you want to be careful to observe baby’s reactions when introducing common allergens.

2. It’s hard to predict food allergies? It’s not totally untrue, but 90% of food allergies are to these 8 foods [3,4,5,6]:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish (e.g., bass, flounder, cod)
  • Crustacean shellfish (e.g., crab, lobster, shrimp)
  • Tree nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts, pecans)
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Soybeans

Foods made with those common allergens can also be allergens. For example, cheese made with cow’s milk can cause an allergy. However, proteins in the cheese are broken down during fermentation, so the risk is lower than of milk itself. While most babies grow out of milk, egg, soy, and wheat allergies. Other food allergies are harder to outgrow.

3. Once a baby shows allergic reactions, the food should not be given again
Healthcare providers recommend giving another try after 2-12 weeks to confirm. Mild symptoms may not occur again. Even if mild allergic reactions occur again, it doesn’t mean that avoiding the ingredient for good. A baby food allergy occurs when the immune system considers certain proteins as a threat. Since babies’ immune systems are constantly developing, most babies eventually grow out of food allergies by frequently interacting with the food [1].

It’s contradictory to most advice saying not give any allergy-inducing food, but those advice is usually for kids older than 5.  A lot of changes happen during infants’ development, and going through mild allergies is simply a process of growing. Just remember, certain food allergies still may stay, and your baby must see a healthcare professional for severe reactions like breathing difficulties.

4. Food allergies related to food sensitivities?

While an allergy is an immune response, food sensitivity or intolerance is usually a metabolic problem, which means one’s body may not produce enough enzymes to digest certain food compounds. Those who with lactose intolerance don’t produce enough lactase (the enzyme) to properly break down the lactose in milk, which results in gas or discomfort in stomach. This is not life-threatening like anaphylaxis [2,6].

5. Parents can diagnose food allergies?
Only doctors confirm food allergies as there are many reasons why a baby can show allergy-like symptoms. Doctors can perform skin and blood tests to confirm specific allergies.

How to use Nuttri to plan baby meals testing for allergens

Most healthcare provides suggest introducing an allergen at a time. Once your child does well with one allergen, try another allergen, or pair the new food with one he/she already likes. For high risk babies, you might want to consult a doctor beforehand.

  1. Recognize common allergens with Nuttri’s icons.
  2. Use Nuttri’s meal plan calendar to introduce one allergen at a time. Wait to introduce another allergen in another 2-3 days.
  3. If no symptoms are seen, gradually increase the amount and include the ingredient to your baby’s meal plan.
  4. If any symptoms are observed, add the item to the “Watchlist”. Then, add the item in the meal plan 2 weeks later. If the symptom is observed again, consult with a health care provider.

How to Balance Your Vegetarian Baby Meals

By Nuttri EditorBaby Food Sciences 2 Comments

How to Balance Your Vegetarian Baby Meals

Vegetarian diets are great for adults. Research has shown vegetarians suffer less overall from obesity, cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes than their non-vegetarian counterparts [1,2,3]. The question is whether or not a vegetarian diet is compatible with the needs of infants.

Babies under 2 years go through rapid growth and changes, and have heightened nutrient requirements. They are also more susceptible to nutritional deficiencies from following a vegetarian diet [3]. For example, infants under 12 months are recommended to get around 50% of calories from fat while a vegetarian diet tends to contain less fat [4].

Experts say vegetarian diets can work very well, and that all the required nutrients can be obtained from plant only sources, as long as the baby’s meals are well-planned to complement each other [1,2,5]. While what constitutes a vegetarian diet is quite broad, from lacto-ovo vegetarianism (where dairy-products and eggs are okay) to veganism (no animal-sourced products), the emphasis is on providing a wide variety of energy and nutritional-dense food to babies.

What a vegetarian baby might miss out on

While all nutritional needs could be met through a vegetarian diet, a few key nutrients should be paid more attention to, especially for infants:

Protein is required for overall physical growth (bones, muscle, cartilage, skin, hair and blood) and the production of hormones and neurotransmitters. 2-3 portions/day and various types of protein sources are recommended [6]. Plant foods have less digestible/usable proteins compared to animal-source proteins, by up to 50%. A diversity of plant-based protein sources is key to consuming adequate, quality proteins; legumes, nuts and seeds provide high quality protein [3,7].

Vitamin B12 is essential for red blood cells, DNA formation and nervous system development and function. It also aids in the metabolism of foods, accessing more energy from the diet [6]. The challenge is finding plant foods that are a high-quality source of vitamin B12, as deficiencies can lead to long-lasting neurological disorders/impairments [8].

Vitamin D regulates calcium – key for bone health. It also contributes to the immune system’s function, reduced inflammation and risks of chronic diseases. The Department of Health (UK) recommends supplements for vitamins A,C and D every day from 6 months to 5 years [9].

Omega 3 fatty acids promote good cardiovascular health, visual function in infants, and proper neurodevelopment. Vegetarians typically have lower eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) levels since most omega 3’s are from fatty fish and other seafoods [7].

Iron is needed for the formation of red blood cells that carry oxygen. Iron deficiency is the most common and well-studied deficiency and is linked to long term effects on physical, mental, and immunological function.

Zinc is a key mineral involved in the support of enzymatic function that helps with digestion and metabolism, and also increases the body’s resistance to infection Western vegetarians are found to be deficient in zinc. However, the bioavailability of zinc in vegetarian diets is lower than non-vegetarian diets due to higher phytate and phytic acid content which make it more difficult to absorb zinc and iron.

How to keep a vegetarian baby healthy

Experts say a vegetarian diet can work very well. However, using both animal and plant food is just easier for parents. Vegetarian parents are recommended to be more mindful in designing baby meals to provide more diversity and nutrition. Here are a couple of tips:

  • Increase bioavailability (make nutrients easy-to-absorb)
    Pairing plant food with spices and acid can help nutrients to be utilized in the baby’s body. For example, add vitamin C to maximize dietary iron absorption. Adding lemon juice to cooked spinach, for example, can help baby’s absorb iron from it.
  • Use fortified food and supplements
    - Parents who are vegan and who are breastfeeding require a vitamin D supplement + possibly vitamin B12.
    - Fortified foods/supplements are suggested for a vegetarian baby to decrease the chances of any nutritional deficiencies in vegetarians [10]. A variety of beverages, cereals, bread, tofu, and eggs are fortified with the nutrients that vegetarian babies need.

How Nuttri helps design a vegetarian baby meal plan

  • Search foods by nutrient and check which plant foods offer more protein, iron, vitamin B12, zinc, and Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Check out the recommended preparation tips for baby food
  • Plan & record meals with diverse ingredients with the meal planning calendar

How Does Indian Baby Food Unlock Nutrients?

By Nuttri EditorBaby Food Sciences 2 Comments

How Does Indian Baby Food Unlock Nutrients?

If a vegetarian diet carries a bit more risk for nutritional deficiencies, how do long-time vegetarians like Indians grow healthy and smart babies? Also, a lot of the Indian diet is based on less pricey and less fancy ingredients like rice and chickpeas. It turns out the way Indians prepare baby food makes the nutrients from plant food easy-to-absorb by a human body. The key is increasing bioavailability through their cooking process.

Common infant deficiencies in India and worldwide

  • Iron: vital to brain development
  • Zinc:  involved in metabolism and DNA synthesis
  • Vitamin A: Leading cause of child blindness
  • Iodine: caused by 1) not enough intake of iodine rich food, or 2) too much cyanogenic foods (cabbage, cauliflower, radish, etc.)

Indian Baby Food Recipe 1) Chapatti/roti based recipe

Steps to make:

  1. Prepare cereals, green gram lentils, and popped chickpeas by moistening or mild toasting
  2. Produce a flour by grinding ingredients together (70% cereal, 20% green gram, 10% chickpeas)
  3. Blend flour with water to make dough
  4. Roll out dough and bake to a roti
  5. Dry and grind roti to produce weaning mix
  6. Mix with warm water or breast milk to serve to infant

Bioavailability changes:

  • Grinding loosens up food matrix to free more nutrients for absorption
  • Moistening filters out some water-soluble nutrients (thiamin, riboflavin, Vitamin C, etc.), but also fibers that inhibit nutrient absorption
  • Baking increases digestibility, reduces fibers that inhibit absorption which increases availability of vitamin B6, niacin, protein, starch, and iron, but lowers for water soluble nutrients
  • Addition of breast milk adds to nutritional value of mix

Indian Baby Food Recipe 2) Popped cereal/rice flake based recipe

Due to its relative abundance in India, popped cereals and rice flakes are commonly used in weaning recipes. As seen in the figure, weaning mixes can be made in a variety of ways.

Steps to make:

  1. Prepare Cereals by moistening, tempering, and popping (or buy pre-popped)
  2. Prepare rice flakes and green gram lentil by mild toasting
  3. Produce a flour by grinding ingredients together with popped chickpeas (20% green gram, 10% chickpeas, 70% other)
  4. Blend flour with water and cook mix
  5. Mix with breast milk to serve to infant

Bioavailability changes:

  • Addition of amchur, which has acids, increases zinc and iron bioavailability
  • Moistening filters out some water-soluble nutrients (thiamin, riboflavin, Vitamin C, etc.), but also fibers that inhibit nutrient absorption
  • Heating increases digestibility, reduces fibers that inhibit absorption, and increases the availability of certain nutrients (vitamin B6, niacin, protein, starch, and iron). The heating process decreases the availability of water soluble nutrients.
  • Grinding loosens up food matrix to free more nutrients for absorption
  • Addition of breast milk adds to nutritional value and increases digestibility as the baby is familiar with it

Indian Baby Food Recipe 3) Pumpkin, Carrot, and Spinach puree

Steps to make:

  1. Steam vegetables in equal ratios till they’re soft
  2. Add a pinch of black pepper and few drops of lime juice
  3. Blend ingredients to a smooth puree
  4. Pass puree through strainer (optional)
  5. Add breastmilk/formula to thin if needed

Bioavailability changes:

  • Addition of black pepper (piperine) and lime juice increase beta-carotene, calcium, zinc and iron availability
  • Steaming increases digestibility, reduces fibers that inhibit absorption, increase availability of certain nutrients (vitamin B6, niacin, protein, starch, and iron)
  • Blending loosens up food matrix to free more nutrients for absorption
  • Addition of breast milk adds to nutritional value of mix


  1. Sajilata, G., Singhal, R. S., & Kulkarni, P. R. (2002). Weaning Foods: A Review of the Indian Experience. Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 23(2), 208-226. doi:10.1177/1564826502023002
  2. https://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/vegetarian-vegan-children.aspx
  3. Merwe, J. V., Kluyts, M., Bowley, N., & Marais, D. (2007). Optimizing the introduction of complementary foods in the infants diet: a unique challenge in developing countries. Maternal & Child Nutrition, 3(4), 259-270. doi:10.1111/j.1740-8709.2007.00111.x
  4. http://www.shishuworld.com/recipes-7to9/
  5. http://www.beinghappymom.com/indian-food-chart-6-months-baby/
  6. http://www.tandfonline.com.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/doi/full/10.1080/10408398.2013.781011

Foods for a Healthy Baby Brain

By Nuttri EditorBaby Food Sciences 4 Comments

Foods for a Healthy Baby Brain

A Critical Period for Healthy Baby Brain Development

While all parents strive for the well-being of their children, it’s good to be mindful of their mental well-being too. In the first three years, a baby’s brain grows nearly 85% of the ultimate adult brain volume [2]. In the first five years, a child’s experiences will form the foundations for all brain functions later on in life [3]. Luckily there are ways to help increase the chances for healthy and wholesome neurodevelopment for infants through the choices we make everyday concerning baby’s nutrition and feeding practice.

Breast Milk Matters for Healthy Baby Brain

Breast milk is key for infants 0-6 months old, with the WHO recommending exclusive breastfeeding during this time for its protective effects and because it is nutritionally wholesome [1,4]. The continued offering of breast milk has been shown to be associated with heightened levels of intelligence [5].

Nutrients for a Healthy Baby Brain

However, once complementary foods are being introduced at approximately 6 months, breast milk can no longer provide all the nutrients a baby requires. Key nutrients should be emphasized for proper brain formation. Iron, zinc, iodine, folate and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E have all been linked to support for optimal growth and maintenance of a developing brain [4,5,6,7].

  • Vitamin B complexes and iodine are both shown to heavily deal with the processes of neural insulation (myelination) and formation of new synaptic connections. Dairy, eggs, and fish are rich in B vitamins.
  • Deficiencies in iron, the most common nutrient deficiency across the globe, can cause massive architectural changes in the wiring of an infant’s brain, especially within the first 24 months [4,8]. Red meats and legumes are rich in iron.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (aka DHA) and other long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) are also crucial in this process by being an essential building block for cell membranes, including neurons, axon insulation and neurotransmitter processes [8]. A mixed approach in the delivery of multiple LCPUFAs have resulted in slight optimization of visual development as well [8]. Avocado, fatty fishes, eggs, nuts, beans are rich in LCPUFAs and Omega 3.

*It is important to note that due to the high sensitivity of infants, too much of any one nutrient could bring negative outcomes. Consulting with a pediatrician is always recommended when adapting any new approaches to infant nutrition.

Feeding Practices for a Healthy Baby Brain

Not only nutrients, but also the way you feed your baby matters in brain development.

Baby led weaning allows the infant to choose what to eat, and also encourages the exploration and development of motor skills. The processes of first identifying what they see as foods, to reach out and grasp the pieces, becoming familiar with textures, flavors, colours and the smell of food all compound to build upon existing neural networks for sensory and motor coordination [12,13,14].

Research has also shown an association between responsive feeding practices and a greater self-understanding of when the infant is full [15]. This allows a baby to initiate and lead their own meals, and have caregivers respond with positive encouragement. This fosters an environment in which self-discovery of food preferences happens. Social interaction is one of the key factors for further brain development including language skills.


  1. Krebs N, Lozoff B, Georgieff Michael. Neurodevelopment: The Impact of Nutrition and Inflammation During Infancy in Low-Resource Settings. Pediatrics. 2017;139(S50). doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2828G
  2. Murray R. The sensory and motor experiences associated with feeding, the type, variety, and timing of foods, their flavors, smells, and textures, as well as the social and emotional context of feeding, all contribute substantially to cognitive, social, and emotional maturation. Ann Nutr Metab. 2017;70(S3):38-46. doi:10.1159/000479246
  3. http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/child_development.html/context/745
  4. Essential Nutrition Actions: Improving maternal, newborn, infant and young child health and nutrition, World Health Organization
  5. Vaivada T, Gaffey MF, Bhutta ZA. Promoting Early Child Development With Interventions in Health and Nutrition: A Systematic Review. Pediatrics. 2017;140(2):e20164308
  6. Suchdev P, Boivin M, Forsyth B, Georgieff M, Guerrant R, Nelson III C. Assessment of Neurodevelopment, Nutrition, and Inflammation From Fetal Life to Adolescence in Low-Resource Settings. Pediatrics. 2017;139(S23). doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2828E
  7. Baker R, Greer F. Clinical Report - Diagnosis and Prevention of Iron Deficiency and Iron-Deficiency Anemia in Infants and Young Children (0-3 Years of Age). Pediatrics. 2017;126(5). doi:10.1542/peds.2010-2576
  8. Schneider N, Garcia-Rodenas C. Early Nutritional Interventions for Brain and Cognitive Development in Preterm Infants: A Review of the Literature. Nutrients. 2017;9(187). doi:10.3390/nu9030187
  9. http://www.momjunction.com/articles/foods-that-will-boost-your-babys-brainpower_00329675/
  10. https://www.onhealth.com/content/1/kids_brain_foods
  11. https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/childhood-adhd/features/brain-foods-kids#1
  12. Cameron, Sonya, Anne-Louise Heath, and Rachael Taylor. "How Feasible Is Baby-Led Weaning as an Approach to Infant Feeding? A Review of the Evidence." Nutrients 4, no. 12 (2012): 1575-609. doi:10.3390/nu4111575.
  13. Brown, Amy, Sara Wyn Jones, and Hannah Rowan. "Baby-Led Weaning: The Evidence to Date." Current Nutrition Reports 6, no. 2 (2017): 148-56. doi:10.1007/s13668-017-0201-2.
  14. Brown, Amy, and Michelle Lee. "An exploration of experiences of mothers following a baby-led weaning style: developmental readiness for complementary foods." Maternal & Child Nutrition 9, no. 2 (2011): 233-43. doi:10.1111/j.1740-8709.2011.00360.x.
  15. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Is-Your-Baby-Hungry-or-Full-Responsive-Feeding-Explained.aspx

Why It’s Important to Have Iron in Baby Food

By Nuttri EditorBaby Food Sciences 5 Comments

Why it’s important to have iron in baby food

Iron deficiency is the most common deficiency worldwide for children. Approximately 25% of preschool children have Iron Deficient Anemia (IDA) globally [1]. Numerous studies found the importance of iron in baby feeding. It’s essential to develop the circulatory and nervous systems in the body.

Adults only need to get 5% of their daily iron supply from their diet, however due to significant growth and muscle development, infants need to get 30% of their daily iron from their diet [2]. Not getting enough iron can result in both cognitive and behavioral deficits in babies, with irritability being a common sign [3]. Beyond brain development, babies that lack iron also show decreased physical development. Pale skin, a decrease in appetite and slow weight gain are all signs of iron deficiency [3].

Iron is a vital component of the heme proteins in red blood cells and muscle cells. 75% of iron in the body is bound to these heme proteins (hemoglobin and myoglobin), which is responsible for a majority of gas transportation (oxygen and carbon dioxide) throughout the circulatory system and the storage of oxygen in the muscles [2]. A lack of iron disrupts this function and means that adequate amounts of oxygen are will not be given to the organ systems around the body.

What forms of iron in baby food are the best?

Iron is abundant in many foods including meat, dairy, legumes, and leafy green vegetables such as spinach. However, iron from plants are not always easily utilized by the body.

  • Heme iron, from animal products, is more easily absorbed form of iron over the non-heme iron that is found in plant matter [4]
  • Phytate, polyphenols, and dietary fibers, found in plant products, lower Iron bioavailability
  • Calcium can have a short-term negative effect on iron absorption in the intestinal lining [5]

How to increase bioavailability of iron in baby food


  • Cook iron-rich vegetables or legumes with acids (e.g. lemon or lime juice)
  • Pair iron-rich meals with vitamin C abundant fruits (e.g. cantaloupe, melon, orange)
  • Do not serve milk or dairy with iron-rich meals since calcium and iron compete to be absorbed (serve dairy as a snack a bit later) for high risk babies
  • For babies older than 12 months, watch out for drinking too much cow milk: under 750 mL per day is recommended [8]

FAQ: Iron in baby food

1. Can we give babies too much iron? What’s the limit & risk?
The upper limit of iron for infants is 40 mg per day [6]. Excess iron is mostly characterized by gastrointestinal problems such as constipation, nausea, and vomiting, and abdominal pain [6]. Iron overdose can be fatal, with overdose leading to comas, convulsions, and multisystem organ failure [6].

2. Can iron supplements prevent iron deficiency?
Most of the iron needs of a baby in the first year are already provided via natural stores, fortified-formula, and diet. It is advised to store any iron supplements safely out of reach of children to prevent accidental ingestion/overdose. Any additional supplementation must only be done with the consultation of a doctor/medical professional.  

3. Are fortified iron foods offer easy-to-absorb iron?
The World Health Organization recommends ferrous sulfate, ferrous fumarate, ferric pyrophosphate, and electrolytic iron powder as compounds for iron fortification [7]. These are mainly water-soluble iron compounds which have low bioavailability (roughly 15%) [7].  Although not recommended, low-cost fortification compounds are commonly used in cereal foods which can have even lower iron bioavailability [7]. Be sure to read ingredient labels to make sure recommended compounds are present.

4. Can we add iron by using cast-iron pans?
Cast-iron pans can leach iron into food, especially with highly acidic foods. Yet, this should not be used as a form of iron supplementation as it is impossible to determine the amount or quality of iron going into the food.

How Nuttri can help you add iron in baby meals

  • Search food ingredients with iron
  • Avoid pairing the iron-rich meals with dairy
  • Add meat & alternatives groups to your meal plans


  1. Domellöf, M., Braegger, C., Campoy, C., Colomb, V., Decsi, T., Fewtrell, M., . . . Goudoever, J. V. (2014). Iron Requirements of Infants and Toddlers. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, 58(1), 119-129. doi:10.1097/mpg.0000000000000206
  2. Subramaniam, G. & Girish, M. Indian J Pediatr (2015) 82: 558. https://doi-org.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/10.1007/s12098-014-1643-9
  3. Iron needs of babies and children. (2007). Paediatrics & Child Health, 12(4), 333-334. doi:10.1093/pch/12.4.333
  4. http://hemochromatosishelp.com/heme-iron-vs-non-heme-iron/
  5. Lönnerdal, B. (2010). Calcium and Iron Absorption - Mechanisms and Public Health Relevance. International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, 80(45), 293-299. doi:10.1024/0300-9831/a000036
  6. Institute of Medicine. 2001. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/10026.
  7. Hurrell R, Egli I. Iron bioavailability and dietary reference values. Am J Clin Nutr 2010;91:1461S–7S.
  8. https://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/nutrition-healthy-term-infants-6-to-24-months

Bioavailability: Getting the Most out of Baby Meals

By Nuttri EditorBaby Food Sciences 3 Comments

Bioavailability: Getting the Most of of Baby Meals

Why bioavailability matters in baby meals

Not all of what we eat is taken in and utilized by our bodies. Only a portion of the nutrients from food can be absorbed into our bodies to be used. Bioavailability is the overall measurement of how certain nutrients in food are digested, absorbed, and distributed throughout the body [1,2,3,4]. For example, studies have shown that as little as 2% of iron from spinach is actually absorbed by the body compared to the 15 -35% of iron from meat that is absorbed [5].

Bioavailability matters for baby meals due to avoid potential nutritional deficiencies [1,4]. Babies grow fast and need a lot of nutrition and energy. However, even well-fed babies can be exposed to a risk of nutritional deficiency depending on how meals are designed.

What increases or decreases bioavailability

A lot of factors affect the level of bioavailability throughout the gastrointestinal tract. For example, proteins generally form soluble complexes with zinc, iron, and copper to increase the absorption of these minerals [3]. The products of fat digestion can increase absorption of fat-soluble A,B,E and K vitamins [3].

On the other hand, oxalate, phytate, polyphenols, and dietary fibers (found in a variety of cereals, legumes, nuts, and green vegetables) disrupt enzyme interactions and block the absorption of iron, zinc, proteins, and lipids (fats) by the body [1,3].

It’s hard to control what’s happening inside of the body, but we can certainly increase bioavailability by pairing certain foods together, or preparing food in an easy-to-absorb form.

Increase bioavailability with spices and acids

Spices are common flavor and taste enhancers added to food, but they are also are absorption enhancers in the intestine.

  • Spice molecules, such as capsaicin (red pepper), piperine (black pepper), gingerol and gingerone (ginger), alter the lining of the intestines to open up their permeability [1]. This increases the absorption of iron, zinc, calcium, and B-carotene (Vitamin A precursor) by significant percentages (10-150%) [1].
  • Garlic and onions both increase the absorption of iron and zinc when they are cooked with grains [1]
  • Acids in citrus foods and fermented milk products increase b-carotene, zinc, and iron absorption through the formation of soluble complexes in the gut [1,3]. The addition of lime juice to grains can have a significant impact on a meal's nutritional value in terms of iron and zinc [1,3].  

Increase bioavailability by cooking

Cooking in general can help your baby absorb more nutrients for his/her growth.

  • Heat processing, such as microwave and pressure cooking, generally increases a food’s digestibility by loosening up the food matrix, and freeing up certain nutrients for absorption. Heating also reduces chemicals like phytate, which lower nutrient absorption [1,2].
  • Mechanical Processing, like cutting, blending, and milling can work in a similar fashion to heat processing. Certain nutrients are released from the food structure and more easily processed, while others are destroyed before ingestion [1,2].
  • Soaking works similarly, as water soluble nutrients and phytates are leached out, leaving iron and zinc more available for absorption [1,2]. For example, pre-soaking chickpeas and lentils overnight before cooking increases their bioavailability. 


  1. Platel K, Srinivasan K. "Bioavailability of Micronutrients from Plant Foods: An Update." Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 56, no. 10 (2015): 1608-619. doi:10.1080/10408398.2013.781011.
  2. Hotz C, Gibson RS. "Traditional food-processing and preparation practices to enhance the bioavailability of micronutrients in plant-based diets." The Journal of nutrition 137, no. 4 (2007): 1097-1100.
  3. Gibson RS, Perlas L, Hotz C. "Improving the bioavailability of nutrients in plant foods at the household level." Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 65, no. 02 (2006): 160-68. doi:10.1079/pns2006489.
  4. http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/6265/1/Bioavailability-How-the-Nutrients-in-Food-Become-Available-to-Our-Bodies.html
  5. https://www.nutritics.com/p/news_Why-Most-Iron-In-Spinach-Is-Useless

6 Month Old Feeding: Why Babies Need Solids NOW

By Nuttri EditorBaby Food Sciences 1 Comment

6 Month Old Feeding

The benefits of breast milk are widely known. We are constantly advised of the advantages of breast milk for overall infant development and told to keep trying to breastfeed. But when does breast milk stop being enough for your baby? And why does 6 month old feeding matter?

At 6 months, babies need more nutrition & stimulation

According to the WHO, Department of Health (UK), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP, USA) and Health Canada, exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for infants from birth till 6 months [1,2,3,4]. While the exact timing differs in each case, at 6 months infants will begin to require more nutrients than those amounts available solely through breast milk. In addition to meeting extra nutrient requirements, an introduction to solid foods also gives your child experiences to develop both physically and mentally [1,5].

Babies need iron from food at 6 months

A key nutrient for 6 month old feeding is iron. While an infant’s own stores of iron and the iron from breast milk are sufficient for early infants, additional sources are needed for optimal growth by 6 months [6]. Iron is crucial to overall neural development (ie. cognitive ability, memory, behavior and motor skills) as well as to physical growth. Introduction of iron-rich foods either from meats, legumes, or iron-fortified grains is recommended to meet these needs [3,4,6,7]. Offering foods rich in iron is not just limited to the 6-month range but something that should remain ongoing throughout childhood at least twice a day [7]. While iron may among the most important nutrients to be conscientious of during early weaning, parents should be mindful to offer nutrient-dense or nutrient-rich foods as well. This usually includes meats/alternatives and vegetables, especially as what the child eats diversifies.

Eating solids stimulates mental & physical development

Babies develop motor skills/coordination as well as healthier eating habits through the transition practices from breast milk to solids, specifically via baby-led weaning [2,4]. Of course this transition should not be forced but rather begun only when your child shows signs that he/she is ready:

  • Ability to sit up properly in chairs
  • Good control over head motions
  • Curiosity towards food (i.e: reaches for solids and tries to put them in mouth)
  • Ability to keep food from a spoon in his/her mouth
  • If they are larger than 12 lbs (5.4 kg) [4]

But there’s no need to feed a large amount of food to a 6 month old. Throughout this process, breastfeeding and/or formula should remain the primary source of energy and nutrients for infants [8]. 6 months is also a good time to introduce a variety of food flavors, textures, and forms to your baby, according to research [4].

Solid foods helps gut and immune system development

Trying new foods stimulates gut maturity and increases the diversity of gut bacteria. While accommodating new nutrients, a baby’s gut will learn how to digest more and more types of food.

6 month old feeding also introduces the immune system to a more realistic world environment. For example, research finds that introducing allergens can reduce the chance of food allergies [9]. This especially applies with eggs and peanuts. Since food allergies are an immune response, exposing allergens through food actually helps your baby’s immune system become smarter and more efficient.

Nuttri can help planning for 6 month old feeding

  • Discover sources of iron and the best food pairings to increase absorption.
  • View and organize the foods that are appropriate for babies at 6 months.
  • Use a meal planner to introduce a variety of different foods, including ones that baby doesn’t like.


  1. Cameron SL, Heath A-LM, Taylor RW. How Feasible Is Baby-Led Weaning as an Approach to Infant Feeding? A Review of the Evidence. Nutrients. 2012;4(11):1575-1609. doi:10.3390/nu4111575.
  2. Brown A, Lee M. An exploration of experiences of mothers following a baby-led weaning style: developmental readiness for complementary foods. Matern Child Nutr. 2013;9(2):233-243. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-8709.2011.00360.x.
  3. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/infant-feeding/nutrition-healthy-term-infants-recommendations-birth-six-months.html
  4. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Switching-To-Solid-Foods.aspx
  5. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/infant-feeding/nutrition-healthy-term-infants-recommendations-birth-six-months.html#a4
  6. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/infant-feeding/nutrition-healthy-term-infants-recommendations-birth-six-months.html#a7
  7. https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthlinkbc-files/babys-first-foods
  8. Grimes CA, Szymlek-Gay EA, Campbell KJ, Nicklas TA. Food Sources of Total Energy and Nutrients among U.S. Infants and Toddlers: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005–2012. Nutrients. 2015;7(8):6797-6836. doi:10.3390/nu7085310.
  9. Ierodiakonou D, Garcia-Larsen V, Logan A, Groome A, Cunha S, Chivinge J, Robinson Z, Geoghegan N, Jarrold K, Reeves T, Tagiyeva-Milne N, Nurmatov U, Trivella M, Leonardi-Bee J, Boyle R. Timing of Allergenic Food Introduction to the Infant Diet and Risk of Allergic or Autoimmune Disease. JAMA. 2016;316(11):1181-1192. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.12623

Why Care About Baby Safe Cookware?

By Nuttri EditorBaby Food Sciences 1 Comment

Why Care About Baby Safe Cookware?

We learn about sanitizing bottles and debate on the benefits of organic food. However, we rarely look at what we are actually cooking with. When we cook food, especially baby food, safe practices in the kitchen are important to know. Before thinking of buying fancy baby food gear, check your pans, pots, and rice cookers first. Overall there are two factors to consider when choosing safe cookware for baby food: composition materials and coatings.

3 tips for choosing baby safe cookware

Caution: Copper & Aluminum
Unlined copper and aluminum are reactive metals and cookware made from these should not be used for slow cooked tomato/creamy sauces. The acidity may react with the metals, imparting a bitterness to the food [3]. Coated and lined cookware work better.

Caution: Coatings on Non-Stick Pans
There are lots of debates about the safety of non-stick coatings, particularly polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). While PTFE itself is well-studied and evidence supports it being a non-carcinogenic and inert chemical [4,5], the majority of non-stick coated cookware have several layers of PTFE coating applied - it is the binding chemicals used in between these layers that are in question [6]. With the globalization of manufacturing chains, it is difficult to know exactly where and how these chemicals are made, and if they are possibly going to be reactive and harmful.

Recommended: Stainless & Cast-Iron
Recommended cookware includes uncoated pure stainless steel sets as well as cast iron options [3,6]. An easier option is stainless steel cookware. It is scratch resistant to harsher usage and lasts longer. Uncoated cast iron is also great, but it takes more effort for maintenance. Cast-iron cookware should be oiled to prevent rust over time [3].

3 habits to keep baby safe cookware safe

The way you use your cookware can also influence the potential health effects that they have.

  1. Do not use metal utensils/tools that are harsh on cookware. Metal utensils and tools can damage any applied coatings and potentially release them into food as well as increase risk of leaching the metals (ie. copper) [3]. Try using gentler non-metal utensils and tools such as those made of plastic.
  2. Do not overheat your cookware. Parents are busy. We often overheat a non-stick pan by simply pre-heating the pan with no food in it. Even 2-5 minutes on medium heat6 can surpass the manufacturer's recommended temperature range and increase the risk of releasing coating particles. These can cause polymer fever (a.k.a Teflon fever), which produces severe flu-like symptoms in adults for up to 24hrs, and will not be good for your baby.
  3. Most cookware has limited a life span. The life span depends on your way of using the cookware. When you see scratches, a dent, or something else unusual, it’s time to change. Especially with non-stick pans that are not supposed to be used forever due to the coatings.