Dates for Babies: Nutritional Value, Benefits and Precautions
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Dates are packed with energy and are a great food item to include in your child’s diet when they start on solids. They are a good source of minerals like iron, calcium, sodium phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and zinc. They also contain vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, Vitamin A, B6 and Vitamin K.
Dates are also a good source of, sugar and fibre. Simple sugars, including fructose and dextrose present in ripened dates are known to provide instant energy.
These nutrients balance the diet of a growing baby and supplement the nutrients from mother’s milk. Here is a quick guide on everything you must know about feeding dates to your little one.
Nutrition Facts and Study About Dates
Apart from being rich in essential nutrients, dates are also known to have therapeutic properties. Studies indicate that there are at least 15 minerals present in dates, including cancer-preventing ones like selenium, which also helps in boosting immunity. In addition, dates have 23 types of amino acids and unsaturated fatty acids, they are low on cholesterol and saturated fat, contain anti-inflammatory properties and are also rich in anti-oxidants.
In terms of nutritional value, 100 gms of ripe dates have the following amount of nutrients, minerals and vitamins:
|Vitamin A||149 IU|
|Beta Carotene||89 Ug μg|
In order to increase the shelf life of packaged dates and other dry fruits, a small amount of sulphate is added to prevent mould formation. However, babies with asthma or sulphate allergy should completely stay away from these sulphate covered dates. In case your baby has asthma, consult your paediatrician to analyse how safe it is to feed dates to your little one.
Are Dates Good for Babies?
Can dates be given to babies is a question that most mothers ask. Dates are ‘heart healthy’ and quite nutritious because of which they can be introduced in an infant’s diet, as these nutrients help in baby’s’ growth. Dates add the essential nutrients required for a baby’s growth that milk alone may not be able to provide.
When to Introduce Dates in Your Baby’s Diet
Providing the right amount of nutrients and striking a balance in the diet is extremely important for your baby’s steady growth and development. Therefore, once your baby gets older, you should supplement their feeds with foods like dates that take care of his essential nutrient requirements. Babies can begin to eat dates when they are around 6 months old or after they have begun eating solid or semi-solid food.
Make sure that you do not introduce dates when your baby is just starting on solid foods. Dates should be introduced in small portions to test how the baby reacts to this new food. They can be introduced with other fruits-one at a time.
Use steamed dates and not dehydrated dates to enable the baby to chew easily. You may puree or mash dates for the ease of consumption.
Benefits of Dates for Infants
Dates are nutrient-rich and are packed with a good variety and amounts of minerals and vitamins which are essential for the growth of your baby. Dates help your baby’s growth in the following ways:
1. Brain Development
Potassium helps brain growth and development, and a fair amount of this nutrient is present in dates, thus enabling a baby’s overall cognitive development.
2. Preventing Indigestion
Dates help in eliminating parasitic organisms and help cultivate friendly bacteria in intestines. This helps prevent intestinal problems– a common concern amongst babies.
3. Liver Protection
Infants are quite susceptible to contracting viral and bacterial infection, which in turn has an adverse effect on the liver, These contribute in high occurrence of liver conditions like jaundice, typhoid and hepatitis that babies fall prey to. It is, however observed that dates have liver-protecting properties and therefore is a great preventive dietary item to include in your baby’s menu.
4. Remedy for Gastric Ulcers
Some children can also suffer from acidity and ulcers. Dates have properties to help alleviate some symptoms and can be added to regular medical treatment recommended by your doctor. However, consult your paediatrician before you use dates as a remedy to treat gastric ulcers.
5. Stronger Teeth
Ripened dates can be given to teething infants for better dental development. Dates help strengthen gums and make teeth grow stronger and faster. Chewing ripe dates can be a good dental exercise that teething babies may benefit from.
6. Nourishing During Fevers and Smallpox
Dates assist in speedy recovery if your baby is recovering from fever or smallpox. This is because of the presence of rich mix of nutrients that dates offer. You can mix dates with milk too.
7. Remedy for Dysentery
Babies can develop dysentery due to bacterial infection in the large intestine. This can be controlled by feeding them sweet date pulp.
8. Relief from Constipation
The high amount of dietary fibre present in dates adds bulk to the stool and promotes water absorption. This assists in a smooth bowel movement for babies.
9. Soothing Fever
Fevers are a common occurrence among children. Dates help eliminate some of the discomforts like acidity and diarrhoea that come along with the risings body temperature. Grounded date mixed with milk is extremely nourishing and also assists in a speedy recovery from fever.
10. Improves Haemoglobin Levels in Blood
Dates have high iron content. This helps in increasing the haemoglobin count in your baby’s red blood cells. It also promotes healthy hair growth and nourishes the skin.
How Many Dates to Give Babies Per Day
Start with one date along with other fruits to allow your baby to recognize and develop a taste for dates. It can be mashed with other fruits or steamed. You can start with one date a day and slowly increase to 2 or 3 per day.
Precautions to Take When Giving Dates
Babies’ digestive systems are fragile, and the sudden introduction of new foods should be avoided. Babies cannot be expected to chew on hard textured dates early on. Give steamed dates or mashed in small pieces to avoid any choking hazards.
- Feed small chunks of dates to avoid the risk of choking.
- Feed only sweet ripened dates with a sweet pulp. Unripened dates are not recommended as they contain tannins which may cause a stomach upset.
- Do not introduce dates immediately when you begin solid foods for your baby. Introduce in small portions and see how the baby enjoys it, before increasing the quantity.
- Opt for seedless dates to start with.
- Watch out for any allergy within the first 24 hours after introducing feeding dates to your little one.
- Consult your paediatrician before introducing dates.
- Check dates for quality. Wash and clean them thoroughly as they do not have skin or an outer shell to keep them germ- and dust-free.
- Raw dates can only be given once your baby can chew well.
- Dates tend to stick to the baby’s teeth as they are sticky in texture. It can lead to forming bacteria that cause tooth decay by producing acid. Ensure your baby drinks water after eating dates as it helps clean their teeth and get rid of any date remains present in their mouth.
How to Give Dates to Babies
Start with mashed or steamed dates and void boiled ones as boiling washes away all the nutrients. Give raw dates only when your baby can chew.
You can also feed dates in the form of puree. Below is a recipe for making date puree:
- Soak the dates overnight in water.
- Remove them from water and keep the water aside.
- Make the date puree for babies in a blender or mixer.
- Add the soaked water kept aside to the puree and make a thick paste.
To make date juice for infants:
- Put dates in a small bowl and let them sit for 30 minutes after covering them with warm water.
- Drain the water after the dates have soaked
- Mix in a high-speed blender with filtered water and lemon juice.
- Blend for 45-60 seconds. Add more water, if required.
You can even make a date paste and store it in the freezer.
You can also include dates in your baby’s diet in the following ways:
- Add dates to milk and make a milkshake.
- Use it as a topping for yoghurt or make a smoothie.
- Dates can be baked into muffins.
Dates are packed with nutrients, that help babies grow. Dates can also help reduce discomfort during fever. You can feed dates in the form of a puree, shake or juice. Consult your doctor and introduce your child to this nutritional and tasty food.
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