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Ask Our Experts

Q: When shopping for my toddler’s meals, what should I look for when reading a food label?

Dietician Celeste Lau says,

We can get a lot of information from food labels such as ingredients list, nutrition information, Recommended Daily Intake (RDI), distributor, health claims and some nutrition guidelines. It is important to cultivate the habit of reading food labels, especially for parents with a food allergic child. I suggest reading the ingredient list first when choosing a food for your toddler. The ingredients of the food will be listed in a descending order, from the main ingredient to the least ingredient in the food. If you note that the first ingredient listed is sugar, syrup, flavouring or colouring codes instead of the main food source that you have expected, then you might need to opt for other brands or products.

Food labels always show the nutritional content of per 100g and per serving size. To compare a product in different brands, you can compare using the figures in 100g. This is because the serving sizes showed in different brands have varying weight and amount.

You can always call the distributor or the information centre stated if you have any doubts on the products that you plan to buy for your toddler.

Q: Do I need to peel the skins of fruits and vegetables when making homemade baby food?

Baby food chef Yeoh Leng Swee says,

Yes, it is advisable to peel the skins of most fruits and vegetables. Some typical concerns for parents are pesticide, wax and bacteria. Another concern that parents should take into consideration is that weaning with produce, skin intact, may not be good for baby’s digestive system. Regardless of the fact that most of the fruits’ nutrients are near the surface of the skin, removing it makes it easier to digest. The skin of fruits and vegetables are also tougher and may pose as a choking hazard.

Pesticide

For most people, pesticide is the main concern when it comes to deciding whether or not to peel the skins off fruits and vegetables. Pesticides are typically used to prevent, destroy and repel any pest from produce before and after harvest. As most pesticides are typically made from chemicals, this has become a concern especially to parents as they give these foods to their young children.

Pesticides on fruits and vegetables may or may not trigger an allergic reaction in a baby. This solely depends on how sensitive the baby is. However, as the allergenic potency of some foods is higher in the skin than the flesh of the fruit, it is best to remove the skin all together, especially those listed on the dirty dozen (October 2011 issue).

Wax

Conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are often waxed to prevent moisture loss, protect them from bruising during shipping, increase their shelf life and enhance appearance. Wax is basically used so that the produce will be able to withstand the journey from orchard to store and beyond. The amount of wax used will differ depending on the length of journey and type of produce.

As wax are typically synthetic chemicals and if the produce are not cleaned well before they are waxed, then the wax may hold in dirt and pesticide residue. Wax is not easily removed by washing too. Hence, the best option is to peel fruits and vegetables that have are commonly waxed such as cucumber, bell pepper, eggplant, potato, apple, orange, lemon, lime and pumpkin.

There are three typical ways to avoid wax. First, you may opt to buy organic produce. Organic fruits and vegetables are rarely waxed and if they are, the wax would be natural. Secondly, buy locally produced fruits. Imported produce are usually coated with wax to last the journey. Lastly, you may peel the skins off fruits and vegetables.

Bacteria

Bacteria may be present on the skins of any produce items. Fruits and vegetables may be contaminated with fertilisers, soil, animal droppings, pests and various other contaminants, or even simply from people’s hands as they touch and handle the produce. Hence, it is best to wash and remove the skins of fruits and vegetable prior to consumption.

Q: I’m entering my 20th week and have yet to feel my baby moving. Should I be worried? This is my first pregnancy.

Obstetrician Dr. Choong Kuo Hsiang says,

Usually for first-time mothers, baby movements are felt from 20 to 24 weeks. From previous experience, second or third time mothers can usually detect the movements earlier from 15 to 16 weeks. They are sometimes described as bubbles of gas after a fizzy drink or little flutterings like butterfly wings (do not worry if you have not felt butterfly wings before, just try and imagine it!). Obviously when the baby grows bigger, it will give you stronger thumps and karate kicks. You will definitely not miss it then!

Some mothers may not be as sensitive as others and therefore do not feel the kicks. Busy mothers bustling in the office or inundated with housework may also not feel the movements. Babies have a mind and character of their own. Some are very quiet and hardly move, whereas others are hyperactive. One mother told me hers was like a BPL footballer! Babies also have their own sleep and rest times. These times do not necessarily coincide with yours too. Then we are looking at a very tired mum!

So the answer to your question is NO, you do not have to be worried. You can try and stimulate some movements. Pull up a chair, sit down, relax and make yourself a drink. Try shifting your position or lie on your side. Play some exciting and loud music. If you still do not feel any movements, make an early appointment to see your doctor. An ultrasound scan will often show you an active baby with a thumping heartbeat and allay your fears. You can go home, relax, and read your BabyTalk magazine.

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