Weaning post #5: An apple a day?

Everyone knows apples are good for you and British Heart Foundation researchers at Oxford University have put the Apple a day proverb to the test in research published in the BMJ this week.

Drawing on existing data and using mathematical models they assessed the affects of eating an apple a day, compared to taking statins, in the over 50’s.

They worked out that prescribing an apple a day (with estimated 70% compliance which is optimistic) to all adults over 50 in the UK would prevent about 8,500 deaths a year from heart attacks and stroke and have fewer side effects than statins. While prescribing statins to people who are not already taking them would prevent a similar number (9,400).

Though they are careful to point out that people who are taking statins already shouldn’t stop.

They also estimated that prescribing statins would lead to 1,000 extra cases of muscle disease and over 10,000 extra diagnoses of diabetes.

I know which I would opt for.

Nutrition

Apples are high in vitamin c, soluble and insoluble fibre. The latter gives them a lower GI which means they release their sugar into the blood much slower than other fruits (38 compared to 65-80 for melons)

They’re also a rich source of phytochemicals, many of which have antioxidant properties – which means the neutrilize free radicals which cause ageing and degenerative diseases like heart disease and cancer.

And so it follows that there are studies that show that people who eat apples are less likely to suffer from a stroke. Eating apples regularly was also found to reduce “bad” cholesterol in women, the risk of type II diabetes and may help prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimers disease.

Babies

So how does this news relate to weaning? The first 5 years of life a crucial in setting eating habits for life. If your baby or toddler eats apples then chances are they will eat them when they are adults. Within those 5 years the first 18 months is probably the time when your child is most open to new foods.

Raw

Raw apples are one of the foods that baby could easily choke on, because they are small and hard.

A good way to give raw apple to your baby is to give a whole apple with the skin on, with a few chunks bitten out by you so it’s easier to gnaw on. They will be able to bite into it, but because their grasp is not strong they will not be able to bite off big chunks.*

You could also try grated apple.

Steamed or boiled

Core an apple, peel and slice into rings and then steam or boil for 2-3 minutes to soften (then putting under a cold running tap to stop the cooking and to cool) is a great way to give apple as a finger food.*

Apple rings
Apple rings

They make a good snack food to take out and about, and as a pudding you can serve with full fat yogurt.

Baked apples

Once your baby is about 1 year and you’re able to brush their teeth. You can make baked apples. Cooking apples are called Bramley’s. They are less sweet than eating apples so you need to add a little natural sweetness.

The reason I say to wait until your baby is about a year as you will then be able to brush their teeth to protect them against dental caries. It’s worth remembering that it’s not recommended to give any added sugars to babies.

To bake the apple, core it. I put foil in the base of the hole. Then pile in dried fruit and add a teaspoon of maple syrup (the foil keeps the syrup in). Cook in the oven in a baking tray (at about 180-200 degrees C or gas mark 5) for about 20 minutes and serve with custard.*

Baked apples with maple syrup, dried fruit and custard
Baked apples with maple syrup, dried fruit and custard

And what about you?

Babies learn eating habits from their parents. So don’t forget to eat your apple a day too.

Which reminds me of the great Michael Pollen Food Rule : If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you’re probably not hungry.

So at this festive time when we tend to over-consume, try to balance the treats with the healthy stuff and before you reach for that mince pie eat an apple first. Have a Merry Christmas and a great 2014. I’m off to eat my apple.

*Remember to feed your baby safely. Never leave them while they are eating, have them sitting upright (if they are tilted back this increases the risk of choking). Do a first aid course so you know what to do if your child chokes.

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