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Remember paint-by-numbers? Well we’re talking feeding-by-colour! When it comes to fruits and vegetables, often the colour of the food is a great indicator of what nutrients it’s full of. It’s almost like nature cleverly colour codes what nutrients are in various foods, so if you treat baby’s plate like a painter’s palette, filling it with a few different naturally nutritious hues, you can be pretty confident that you’re serving up a nice balanced cross section of the nutrients baby needs. Orange foods, like carrots, butternut squash and sweet potatoes, are rich in beta-carotene, an anti-oxidant and organic pigment that give orange foods their hue. Everyone has heard the old adage about carrots being good for your eyes. And that’s thanks to all that beta-carotene which is naturally converted to vitamin A when it enters baby’s bloodstream. So why is vitamin A good for eye health? Well, in addition to aiding in baby’s growth and development, vitamin A has been shown to help prevent eye diseases and also helps reduce the risk of eye infections by supporting the surface of the eye, mucous membranes and skin in their roles as barriers to bacteria and viruses. Vitamin A also supports bone growth as well as cell and tissue health for strong nails, skin and hair.

In this edition of Feeding-by-Colour, we’ve rounded up the best orange-hued foods for babies:

• Butternut squash - Butternut squash is appealing to babies because they love its sweet taste. It's a good source of the antioxidant beta-carotene and also has vitamin C, potassium, fiber, folate, B-vitamins, and even some omega-3 fatty acids.

• Sweet Potatoes- Like butternut squash, sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamin C, fiber, beta-carotene and potassium which supports proper hydration. Babies aged 6-12 months need about 750mg of potassium per day and that number increases to about 1000mg per day when baby is between the ages of 1-3. Most babies prefer sweet potatoes over other vegetables because of their naturally sweet taste. When cooked and mashed, sweet potatoes make a smooth puree that's easy to eat, even for babies who are just starting the transition to solid foods.

• Carrots – Everyone knows carrots are good for your eyes. And that’s thanks to being packed with, you guessed it, beta-carotene. Cooking carrots brings out their natural sweetness, which makes them appealing to babies, who are born with a preference for sweet flavors. Just make sure they’re cooked! Softened and pureed, carrots are a great starter food or, if your baby is eating finger foods with more texture, you can give her well-cooked diced carrots.

• Papaya flesh is soft and easy to swallow, so it makes ideal weaning food. It is rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene, and just 1/4 cup of papaya will provide a young child's daily requirement of vitamin C. Papaya is also high in soluble fiber, which is important for normal bowel function. Papaya also contains enzymes that aid digestion, maybe you heard that is may help prevent heartburn when you were pregnant!

• Apricots are a good source of beta-carotene and also contain fiber. Dried fruits like apricots can also be a source of iron. To serve dried apricots, slice them very finely or bake chopped dried apricots into muffins or oatmeal.

• Cantaloupe is the most nutritious variety of melon. It is very sweet and rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene. All melons are also fluid-rich and a good source of hydration for your baby. • Peaches provide a good source of vitamin C, and the soft flesh is easy to digest.

• Oranges & citrus fruits –Citrus fruits, including oranges, lemons, and grapefruits, are a good source of vitamin C, which helps make the collagen that's found in muscles, bones, and other body tissues. Vitamin C also heals cuts and assists with the absorption of iron from other foods. Citrus fruits also have potassium, a mineral that helps muscles contract and plays a role in maintaining a healthy fluid balance in the body. To serve slices of orange or grapefruit, peel off the thin difficult-to-chew membranes and offer your baby small pieces of inner flesh.

Try this Mango Carrot Smoothie recipe for a delicious blend of two orange-hued all-star ingredients. 

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