Expert speak: Can I give paneer to my 3-year-old toddler?
Our expert Dr Vikas Satvik, answers one of the most commonly asked question and explains why we must choose paneer over cow's milk
As new parents our priority is to make sure our babies get a healthy and balanced diet. And most infants do pretty well till they are on breastmilk. But post that is where the actual confusion begins.
The questions about a baby's first solid and their follow up meals can often make new mums paranoid. You want to know what and how much your baby can digest and whether or not a particular food group is good for his health.
And trust us, all these questions are valid and you are not alone in asking them. So before you move on to actually introducing solids, first understand how and when you should do it.
A baby's digestive system evolves and matures slowly but gradually. So during the first few months, while he or she can digest fats, carbohydrates as well as proteins, their pancreas are not fully developed.
This also means that your baby will produce lower levels of digestive enzymes than say, an older child. And your breastmilk combined with his own saliva help him digest and breakdown all the nutrients.
But after six months, your baby develops his body will slowly produce sufficient levels of enzymes in order to digest starches and carbohydrates. However, he will only be able to digest fat by his ninth month because lipase and bile salts that aid in its digestion reach their full level by this time. So post the ninth month, you can most certainly include fats in your baby's solid food intake.
Having understood how a baby's digestive system work, let's move on to the most important question- Can I give my baby some cow's milk and paneer?
While most experts would agree that giving the baby cow's milk is not such a great idea, given that milk is heavier than breastmilk and difficult to break down. They may advice that you give paneer or yogurt instead of cow's milk.
That's because in both of these foods, the lactose is broken down into small molecules that can easily be digested by a small baby or toddler.
We at theIndusparent spoke to Dr Vikas Satvik, Head, Neonatology and pediatrics, Motherhood Hospital, Bengaluru, who answered some of the most pertinent questions about feeding dairy solids to kids. Here's an excerpt from our interview.
TIP: What is the right age to start dairy products in kids?
Dr Satvik: Parents can start small amount of dairy products like yogurt or curds when the babies are six-months-old. Cheese can be given after one year due to high salt content. Low salt cheese can be given earlier. This can be given only if the babies are not allergic to cow’s milk and also there is no history of milk allergies in the family.
But it is important that when offering cheese to the kids, it needs to be melted first. This it to prevent choking. Also look for yogurt which are naturally sweetened. Avoid artificially sweetened yogurt as it contains more chemicals.
TIP: What kind of cheese should be given to the kids? Is our desi paneer the best? If so, Why?
Dr Satvik: Compared to cheese, paneer is the best, as it could be made at home. Instead of buying paneer from the supermarkets, make it at home and give it to the kids as you will be sure about the quality.
Let's not forget, paneer is an important source of protein for vegetarians. Also it is a valuable source of vitamin, fat and minerals like calcium and phosphorus. For a 6-7 month old kid these provide the required vitamins for growth. So along with the breast milk, paneer could also be given to the kids.
TIP: How much paneer should be given to a 3-year-old child?
Dr Satvik: A small cube of paneer is enough for a 6-8 month old baby and as the baby grows, you can feed him a maximum of 2 to 3 small cubes, 3 to 4 times a week. Start small and watch out for any reactions to the cheese or paneer.
TIP: If the kid is lactose intolerant, can he still be given paneer? If not, what are the substitutes?
Dr Satvik: It is better to cut down the dairy products if your kid is lactose intolerant. But you can continue with yogurt or curd as the lactose in it is fermented. This makes the digest easier for the lactose intolerant kids. Parents can choose lactose-free formula or soya-based formula for lactose intolerant kids for the necessary proteins and calcium.
Also, when it comes to the form of cooking for a toddler, stay away from fried paneer as it contains more oil. Opt instead for roasted paneer.
Now that most of the queries about giving paneer to babies are clear, let's move on to some simple recipes you can give to your babies.
Cute some homemade paneer into small cubes. Now saute these cubes on low to medium heat in one tablespoon of ghee. Once they turn slightly brown, take them off heat.
Make sure that they are not extremely crisp. Cool them and chop them into more fine pieces so your baby can hold them and eat on his own. If you do not want to add any ghee, you can instead roast the paneer cubes as well.
For this recipe you'll need a cup of milk, half a tablespoon of ghee, one tablespoon of cardamom powder or dry fruit powder, one-fourth cup of grated homemade paneer and an optional tablespoon of sugar.
To prepare this, boil the milk on medium heat. Once you see the boil, add the grated paneer. Let it simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add the sugar and dry fruits powder and let it reduce for 10 more minutes. Once you are happy with the consistency, remove from heat and let it cool.
Both these recipes take less than 15 minutes to prepare and can be a great addition to your toddler's diet. Not to forget, they are also rich in proteins and essential nutrients required for your kids' growth.
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