Tips & Advice

Nurse Evelina’s and nutritionist Therese’s tips and advice.

Our nurse Evelina is an expert in everything to do with babies, food and nutrition. Nutritionist Therese has much experience of cooking her own baby food and gives us further advice regarding the baby’s first meals. We’ve collected Evelina’s and Therese’s advice baby food advice below.

Most parents worry about food at some point during the baby’s first years. Are they eating enough? Only their favourite meal? What can you do to avoid nagging and bribery during mealtimes? Like many other things in early childhood, your child’s appetite varies. Sometimes they don’t want to eat much for a while and other times they want to eat more. This is completely natural for most children and as long as they are doing well and follow their length and weight curve, there’s no cause for concern.

Here are a few little tips along the way if you happen to be tussling with a tricky little 8-month-old who has just started to eat “ordinary” food or a determined 3-year-old who is refusing to eat anything but meatballs

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Popular advice

  • Is it dangerous for small children to eat sugar too early?

    No, sugar is not dangerous for the baby! We as adults need to build a foundation of healthy habits for the child and this is simply about ensuring that the child feels good. Young children need very nutritious food as they don’t eat large quantities. It’s recommended to avoid empty calories like sugar to maximize the foods’ nutritional value. Avoiding sugar is also preferred as it reduces the risk of obesity and dental cavities.

    Therese Borgelöv, Nutritionist

     

  • How can I ensure that my child doesn’t eat too much salt? Are there any products that should be avoided?

    Too much salt isn’t good for small children. It isn’t dangerous for small children in really small proportions, but if you cook your own baby food, you should be careful not to use too much salt in the food. If the child eats the same food as the family, use less salt when cooking and add salt to your own servings. Some foods and ingredients also contain more salt than others, such as smoked pork. With these foods you may want to completely avoid adding salt. You don’t need to worry about the baby food that you buy from the supermarket. However, if you serve semi-manufactured products for the family and plan to serve the food to your child, you need to be aware of and check the content and salt amounts. The semi-manufactured food that adults can eat often contain much higher levels of salt than home-cooked foods.

    Therese Borgelöv, Nutritionist

  • Why should I avoid fennel tea when pregnant? Should I also avoid fresh fennel?

    There have never been any studies conducted on pregnant women and children regarding dietary supplements and herbal extracts. Therefore, Livsmedelsverket doesn’t know how these products impact these groups and advise pregnant women to avoid eating or drinking them. It’s simply a precautionary measure to discourage pregnant women from drinking fennel tea for example. Pregnant women can, however, eat ordinary fennel without problem. The difference between fennel tea and fresh fennel is that we know that the child in the belly is not harmed when the mother eats fresh fennel, but we don’t know the impacts of the fennel tea as it’s classified as a health food that contains plant extracts.

    Therese Borgelöv, Nutritionist

  • My child is refusing to eat vegetables! How do I make my child eat enough vegetables?

    As a parent, you can choose what to serve your child but you can’t decide what the child chooses to eat. If your child refuses to eat vegetables, don’t give up! Keep offering vegetables and test your way to see what works. One tip is to try to think about what time of the day that the child eats the most. It is common that children don’t eat large portions with every meal, but they often eat at least one proper meal a day. If you know that the child for example eats the most in the evening, you can take the opportunity to serve vegetables with that meal. Also, imitate what many kindergartens do and serve vegetables first, when the child is hungry. Serve the rest of the food 5-10 minutes after the vegetables. Another tip is to hide the vegetables. If a child likes to drink smoothies for example, you can take the opportunity to add some greens into the mix. You can also add some shredded carrots into a meat sauce or similar dishes. Many children prefer and like the slightly sweeter vegetables such as corn, or oven baked vegetables; root vegetables, sweet potatoes, etc. Serve the child the vegetables they like and continue to experiment with other vegetables. If the child’s weight and height curve is normal, you don’t need to worry. If you have any questions or are worried, you can always get help from your nurse/doctor at your local child health center.

    Therese Borgelöv, Nutritionist

  • Poor appetite! How can I make my child eat more, and how do I know that he/she gets the required nutrients?

    In case of poor appetite, limit snacking to allow for the child to become properly hungry! I know that it’s very frustrating to try to get them to eat. If your child has poor appetite, be extra careful with what he/she eats and try to serve nutritious food. If you still can’t get the child well fed, it might be a good idea to give some gruel from time to time so your child gets some nutrients. It’s common that a child only eats properly once per day. If that’s the case it’s important to not stress over every meal and accept that the child only wants to eat properly once, which is fine. Don’t give up, keep trying! 😊 Ensure you attend your regular health check-ups, where they’ll measure the child’s weight and height curve. If the child isn’t getting the nutrients needed, they’ll discover that from studying the child’s weight and length curve. If the curve deviates from the standard, you will get the help needed from your nurse or doctor.

    Therese Borgelöv, Nutritionist

  • Milk: Good or Bad? Why is it recommended to give children low-fat milk?

    Up until the age of 1, there is no need to give babies’ cow’s milk because they are already getting the required nutrients through breast milk or formula. Breast milk and formula is also much more suitable for the baby. Whole milk is not harmful to small children, but low-fat milk is recommended because it’s vitamin D enriched which is good for small children. We give children under the age of 2 Vitamin D-drops that are available through the child health centers. It might be a good idea to choose the vitamin D enriched milk over the whole milk for children aged above 2 years as it contains higher levels of vitamin D. Milk contains high proportions of saturated fat and it’s important to ensure that there’s room for more polyunsaturated fat in the diet. For example, rapeseed oil contains both polyunsaturated fat and Omega 3 which is good for children. It’s better to allow rapeseed oil in the child’s diet as it’s better adapted than milk and children often struggle to get enough iron.

    Therese Borgelöv, Nutritionist

  • At what age should children stop drinking gruel?

    Gruel is iron enriched and contains large amounts of iron. It is therefore great as a supplement for children as Children tend to struggle to get enough iron. There is no reason for children to stop drinking gruel at any particular age. Although, as children often appreciate drinking gruel from a bottle it’s important to ensure that the child doesn’t eat the gruel at the expense of other foods. It is important that the child learns to eat food from all food groups. If you want to get rid of the baby’s bottle you can instead serve the gruel in a cup. However, two portions of porridge or gruel per day is a good source of iron and can be maintained as a part of the diet as the child grows older. There is nothing wrong with gruel itself, it’s a great source of nutrients, but the gruel intake shouldn’t exceed the food intake. If you notice that the child eats less food and wants more gruel, then try to limit the amount.

    Therese Borgelöv, Nutritionist

     

  • What foods should I avoid feeding the child during the first year? Why should I avoid feeding children under 1 year fresh fennel, beets, spinach and honey?

    Livsmedelsverket has made a thorough list of the foods you should avoid giving to children under the age of 1. The only recent addition is rice. Livsmedelsverket advises you to not feed children green leaves, beets, fennel etc. because these foods contain nitrates that can convert into nitrite in the body and inhibit the oxygen transfer. Although this isn’t extremely common it’s important to avoid these ingredients when cooking your own baby food. As for honey, it may contain spores that form bacteria in the intestines, which in turn form a poison. I suggest that you use agave instead of honey if you want to sweeten the food. As previously mentioned, Livsmedelsverket also discourages parents from feeding children rice as it contains arsenic and high levels of arsenic isn’t healthy for a child. Therefore, Livsmedelsverket recommends to limit the number of portions of rice to a maximum of 3 per week and that parents should avoid feeding their children rice cakes before the age of 6.

    Therese Borgelöv, Nutritionist

  • Baby food: When can you move from puree to food with larger pieces?

    Baby food from supermarkets that contain larger pieces usually has an age recommendation of 8 months. Food products with lower age recommendations tend to be smooth purees. This serves as a good guideline but there’s no evidence that a 6 month old baby can’t be fed food that contains slightly bigger pieces. It’s perfectly fine to feed pieces to a 6 month baby, as long as the pieces are soft and small and won’t choke the child. However, a slow introduction is to be recommended to ensure that the baby learns how to chew and how to handle food with pieces. It can be difficult for small children to eat pieces in the beginning.

    Therese Borgelöv, Nutritionist

  • When should I introduce water to the child?

    While the baby is still breastfeeding or is being given formula this remains the best fluid option. A child that receives formula or breast milk gets the fluids and nutrients it needs through the breastmilk or formula and therefore has no need to drink water. If the child eats a whole portion of food with no supplement of breastmilk or formula, you need to serve water with the meal.

    Therese Borgelöv, Nutritionist

  • When can I start introducing gluten to children and at what point at the latest should it be introduced?

    Regarding introducing gluten to children, there has been some new recommendations in the area. Livsmedelsverket previously recommended an early introduction to gluten for children; before 6 months and while still breastfeeding, in order to prevent gluten intolerance. The new recommendation is to introduce gluten slowly as it hasn’t been proven that an early introduction to gluten provides any additional protection or increased tolerance. Hence, the recommendations are to introduce gluten gradually and slowly, preferably around the age of 6-12 months.

    Therese Borgelöv, Nutritionist

     

  • When can children start eating the same food as the family and when can you start introducing spices to small children?

    You need to be careful with spices until the child is about 1 year, especially with salt.  Start with very simple foods when you begin to introduce food. Feed the child puree containing a single ingredient, such as sweet potato or carrot. When the child has gotten used to it, you can start adding more ingredients. This will make their taste more complex, and if you continue in stages they will learn to eat different things. If you introduce ingredients and spices gradually, the child will eventually start eating the same foods as the family. There is a risk that a child might disapprove if you introduce several different ingredients when it’s very young. It also depends on the child, if you introduce food at an early stage the child may be ready for more sophisticated foods and flavors at an earlier age. Some children might dislike eating food meaning that you will have to introduce food slowly.

    Therese Borgelöv, Nutritionist

  • When can you start feeding your child whole grain ?

    There is no age limit on whole grain consumption, but whole grain isn´t essential in the baby’s first months because they get the nutrients they need from the breast milk or formula. Whole grain isn´t dangerous for small children as it’s very nutritious. But be observant because some children may get problems with their stomach when eating whole grain for the first few times, but it’s very individual and every child is different. If you discover that your child has stomach problems, limit the amount of whole grains that you feed your child.

    Therese Borgelöv, Nutritionist

  • How much food does my child need?

    Only your child can be the judge of that. Sometimes they don’t eat very much at one meal but compensate by eating more at another. Offer a varied diet but let them choose how much they want. If your child is following their weight and length curve and seem to be healthy, there’s no reason to worry. Your child might not get all the vitamins and nutrients they need at a single meal, but over time (if you’re serving a varied diet) most children will take in exactly what they need. If you’re worried or if it goes on for a longer period, contact your child health clinic!

    Evelina Rosén, Nurse Bambino MAM

  • When can I start with taste portions?

    When children reach the age of six months, you need to supplement breast milk/formula with other food to make sure that they receive all the necessary nutrients and cover their needs for energy and iron.

    Fundamentally, the best approach is gradually to introduce small ‘taster portions’ into children’s diets as from the age of around six months, while continuing to feed them breast milk or formula.
    Some children start to show interest in other food before the age of six months, and there is nothing wrong with letting these children taste very small portions of food – but only from the age of four months. Make sure to keep the taster portions small enough to ensure that they do not compete with the feeds of breast milk or formula.

    Evelina Rosén, Nurse Bambino MAM

  • Why do children need vitamin D?

    Because vitamin D is extremely important for the development of healthy bones and the skeleton. Research also exists to suggest that vitamin D plays a key role in preventing the development of various other illnesses. It is therefore recommended that you feed your child five drops of vitamin D every day from the age of one week to two years.

    Evelina Rosén, Nurse Bambino MAM

  • How can I be sure that my child is getting enough vitamin D?

    If you feed your child five drops of vitamin D every day from the age of one week to two years, you will not need to give him/her any other vitamin D supplements. In contrast, many children may need to keep on taking vitamin D drops for longer (throughout their pre-school years) if they do not eat/drink dairy products enriched with vitamin D, if they do not eat fish, if their skin is dark, or if they do not spend time in the sun with some skin uncovered.
    Bambino’s Soft Tipped Weaning Spoon is perfect for giving children their vitamin D-drops! The spoon features a soft bowl made of gentle silicone, which is easy on your child’s little mouth.

    Evelina Rosén, Nurse Bambino MAM

  • How can I be sure that my child is getting enough vitamins?

    Young children do not eat as much food as us adults, so it is important to make sure that the food they eat is rich in vitamins and minerals. It is here that you have an extremely important role to play as a parent, because you know what constitutes good food. But what do you do if your child has, for example, decided that he/she only wants to eat peas and none of the other food you serve? In such cases, it can be good to know that what’s important is not what your child eats at specific mealtimes or on specific days. Instead, set yourself the goal of generally serving good and varied food. If you serve different kinds of food that is rich in protein, carbohydrates, fat and various vitamins and minerals, your child will surely get all the nutrition he/she needs. What is important is the food your child eats over a long period – not that every meal should be perfect 🙂 Of course it is a good idea to contact your child care nurse if, as a parent, you have any doubts or need a little help.

    Evelina Rosén, Nurse Bambino MAM

     

  • How should I introduce gluten?

    The current advice from the Swedish National Food Agency is that gluten should be introduced no earlier than 4 months and not later than the age of 6 months. For example, you can give a small spoonful of porridge or a small piece of bread for your child to taste, and gradually increase the amount slowly. Many are considering how fast they can increase the amount of gluten. Currently there are no concrete and clear answers to that, more than that the amount of gluten during the first year should not be too large. This is because researchers have not been able to see clear research results and they are now going through the research to see what can affect the risk of gluten intolerance. Previously it was said that breastfeeding protects against celiac disease, but it is not likely.

    Gluten is found in wheat, spelled, rye and barley. Gluten is not naturally found in oats but oat products sold in stores may contain small amounts of gluten from other cereals, if, for example, packed in the same factory premises or being mixed at harvest.

    Evelina Rosén, Nurse Bambino MAM

  • Why do I need to introduce gluten slowly?

    Research indicates that if children are fed small amounts of gluten while they are still breast-feeding, this will reduce the risk of their developing gluten intolerance. Even if you are feeding your child formula, you should still introduce gluten into his/her diet slowly. Start with small amounts and then gradually increase them. It is important to start with small amounts of gluten and then gradually increase them to ensure that these taster portions do not compete with the feeds of breast milk/formula.
    The introduction of gluten is a hotly debated topic at present, so the recommendations presented here are those made by the Swedish National Food Administration.

    Evelina Rosén, Nurse Bambino MAM

  • What is it good to have when my child starts to eat solid food?

    Here are a list of some products that I recommend to use in the beginning when your child is ready to eat solid food:

    –    A bib.
    Ideally a soft bib that protects the clothes, as the process can get quite sticky :). It is also good to have a bib with a little ‘pocket’ to catch any food that misses the target.
    –    A soft spoon with a shallow bowl that makes it easier for your child to eat.
    –    A small cup to give your child breast milk/formula or water to drink.
    –    Patience 🙂 Some children quickly understand how to swallow the purée, others take a little more time and may spit the food out to start with. In other words, if your child spits out the purée, it may not necessarily be because he/she doesn’t like the taste – it may simply be a matter of him/her needing more time to master the technique of eating from a spoon.

    Evelina Rosén, Nurse Bambino MAM

  • Is there any food that young children should not eat?

    There are some things you should avoid feeding to your young child:

    Burned food
    Burned food contains harmful substances that are neither you, nor your child should eat.

    Some species of fish
    –    Small herring from the Baltic Sea
    –    Wild-caught (not farmed) salmon and trout from the Baltic Sea, Lake Väner and Lake Vätter.
    –    Lavaret from Lake Väner and char from Lake Vätter.
    These types of fish may contain high levels of environmental toxins and you should therefore not eat them more than 2–3 times per year.
    –    Fish you have caught yourself: perch, pike, zander and burbot may all contain mercury, so it is not recommended to let children eat them too often.

    Health food products
    These products have often not been scientifically tested, or tested for children, so health food products are not recommended for children – because it is not known how they may affect them.
    Coffee, black tea and caffeine
    Children are more sensitive to caffeine than adults, and they make experience palpitations or feel unwell if they drink coffee, large amounts of black tea or other products that contain caffeine.

    Unpasteurised milk/green cheese
    Unpasteurised milk may contain harmful bacteria that can make children (and adults) ill.

    Rice cakes and rice products
    Rice can contain arsenic. Therefore, it is not recommended to feed rice cakes or rice-based drinks to children under the age of six. If you do eat rice, it is a good idea to switch between brands to reduce the risk of ingesting high levels of arsenic. Generally speaking, children should not eat rice or rice products more often than four times a week.

    Salt
    When children reach the age of approx. 12 months, their bodies can start to regulate their salt balance. But you should still take care with salt levels even after your child is one year old; choose iodine-enriched salt, because iodine is used to regulate the metabolism.

    Green potatoes
    Green or damaged potatoes contain a substance called solanine, which can cause stomach ache, nausea and vomiting in both children and adults.

    Sugar, juice, sweets and soft drinks
    Try to avoid these for as long as possible. They provide very little nutrition and contain a great deal of sugar, which is not good for children. Moreover, sugar has an adverse effect on children’s teeth.

    You should also avoid letting children under the age of 12 months eat:
    –    Honey
    In rare cases, honey may contain spores that can cultivate bacteria in children’s intestines.
    –    Leaf vegetables or beetroot
    Leaf vegetables such as rocket salad and spinach contain nitrates, which are converted to nitrites in the body. These substances, in turn, can hinder the transportation of oxygen in the blood.

    Evelina Rosén, Nurse Bambino MAM

  • What can you do to make mealtimes calm, and not just nagging and bribery?

    Food is something that pretty much all parents worry about at some point in the baby and toddler years. Are they eating enough? Only their favourite meal? What can you do to make mealtimes not just nagging and bribery?

    Like so many other things in early childhood, your child’s appetite varies. Sometimes they don’t want to eat very much for a while and other times they want more. This is completely natural for most children and as long as they are well and following their length and weight curve, there’s no cause for concern.

    Here are a few little tips along the way though if you happen to be tussling with a tricky little 8-month-old who has just started to eat “ordinary” food or a determined 3-year-old who is refusing everything other than meatballs:

    Meals should be pleasant

    Hands up all parents who have ever threatened “no ice cream for dessert” or insisted their baby tries broccoli. You are not alone! But instead try to focus on making mealtimes pleasant and inviting, not a time associated with negative attention. The atmosphere gets passed on to the children and often things just get worse. Sit down with your child and eat with them, set out the food in bowls and let them pick what they want to eat, taste all the food you’ve put out yourself and focus on the fact that eating is natural. It’s not about performance. If meals become too full of expectations and demands and stop being fun for your baby, there’s a risk of creating a vicious circle where food is associated with something difficult.

    Food at regular times

    One good ground rule is to serve food at regular times. Children need to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, with some snacks in between. Eating regularly also helps to make sure that blood sugar doesn’t sink too low between meals, and hopefully also makes sure your baby isn’t too tired to eat. Small children often can’t manage too much food at a time and need to top up “little and often”. Try to avoid snacks such as biscuits, raisins or sweet drinks. They’re not good for the teeth and they can also mean your baby isn’t hungry by the time it’s actually dinner.

    How much food does my child need?

    Only your child can be the judge of that. Sometimes they don’t eat very much at one meal but compensate by eating more at another. Offer a varied diet but let them choose how much they want. If your child is following their weight and length curve and seem to be healthy, there’s no reason to worry. Your child might not get all the vitamins and nutrients they need at a single meal, but over time (if you’re serving a varied diet) most children will take in exactly what they need. If you’re worried or if it goes on for a longer period, contact your child health clinic!

    Are there things children mustn’t eat?

    It’s worth looking at The Swedish National Food Agency’s website to check what you ought to avoid, especially for babies under the age of 1.

    What do I need at meals (products, patience and a sense of humour)?

    Meals are more fun and much easier with the right products. For babies it’s a good idea to have a proper bib that catches everything that doesn’t make it into their mouths, a shallow spoon, a non-spill cup with a handle and a bowl with slightly higher edges once your baby is feeding themselves. Add some ergonomic cutlery and small glass for older babies and you’ll be all set for pleasant family meals. Top with plenty of patience and a sense of humour and even the most suspicious food refuser will usually come round!

    Bambino has lots of great products in its range to make mealtimes easier and more fun!

    Evelina Rosén, Nurse Bambino MAM