Introducing your baby to solid foods is an exciting milestone. It can also be a bit overwhelming. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to start their children on solids between 4 and 6 months. Consider the signs of your own baby in addition.
Some signs that your baby is ready to eat include:
- He is sitting up on his own relatively unassisted
- His extrusion reflex (tongue thrust) has disappeared.
- He shows an interest in food and mouths objects.
Don’t start solids before 4 months. Breastmilk or formula should be continued until at least a year old, and at that point whole milk can be introduced.
Puree or Nay?
For a long time, many thought that baby needed to start with pureed foods before moving fully to solids. But older babies actually develop the jaw movements needed to begin chewing – even without a single tooth – at around six months old. They may even benefit from it, helping to develop their motor skills and self-regulating their food intake in the near future.
As soon as your baby understands the concept of meals and eating (usually between 6 and 9 months), a routine for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two to three snacks can be started. Since these early years are important in establishing healthy eating habits for not only your little one, but also for the whole family, you will want to pack healthful foods into your child’s daily diet. With a specific shopping strategy, you can stock your kitchen with foods that satisfy your child’s nutritional needs and taste preferences.
This guide will help you determine foods to introduce to your baby’s diet and provide you a grocery list of items to help feed your whole family healthy foods.
Fruits and Veggies
Stock your cart with fruits and vegetables. Start with fruits that are easily digestible, such as applesauce, mashed bananas, pureed peaches, pureed pears, and apricots. Highly acidic fruits, such as oranges, grapefruit, and strawberries, should not be offered until the baby is one year old. Veggie ideas include slightly softened baby carrots, peas, avocadoes, broccoli florets, cauliflower and bell peppers.
Eggs are packed with protein and can be added whenever baby is eager to take solids. Previously there was a common belief that feeding babies eggs before one year of age might cause allergies, but new research suggests that feeding babies eggs by six months of age may actually decrease the risk of developing an allergy. Whole milk, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cottage cheese can be given at 12 months.
Pureed chicken and turkey are lean meats that are good sources of protein and iron. Starting your child on seafood early could encourage preference for the fish flavor. Some fish such as salmon contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which can enhance immune function and help power the brain.
Beans, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta are full of fiber and healthy for the whole family. These can be incorporated into many meals. Beans can be added to quesadillas; whole-wheat pasta can be served with steamed veggies; and brown rice can be served with meat or veggies.
Snacks and Cereal
Your child can have single grain cereals from 4 to 6 months. The level of iron stored in utero drops after birth and reaches an all-time low at around 9 months. Cereals are fortified with iron and can be a good early food. Oatmeal is an even healthier choice as it is full of fiber to keep your child’s belly full. Sweeten the oatmeal with fresh fruits.
If you choose to shop in the bakery section, choose whole grain items. Whole wheat bread for sandwiches and whole-wheat tortillas for wraps are easy and healthy options. Use wheat pita bread as a dipper for hummus.
Avoid giving the following foods to your child:
- Honey can cause botulism, a nerve disease, if introduced too early.
- Cow’s milk is fine to use in cooking and baking but stick with breast milk and formula as your child’s primary beverage until one year of age.
- Nuts, popcorn, raisins, and whole grapes are choking hazards.
In addition to having a grocery shopping strategy, establish these habits to ensure healthy eating for your family.
- Read books about fruits and vegetables.
- Play with food-themed toys.
- Make mealtime relaxing and enjoy conversation.
Starting your little one on solid foods can be a fun adventure the whole family can share. Check out our recipes for delicious and nutritious meals now!