What do you first think of when you hear the words, “baby food?” For many folks, images of those expensive little jars of pureed meats, fruits and vegetables found at most grocery stores instantly come to mind. Others see those pricey little boxes of baby cereal that contain flakes of rice or another grain that look more like sawdust than something resembling nutritious food.
Choosing Whole Foods Over Processed Foods
Feeding your baby, however, doesn’t have to be overly expensive, or contain overly processed “mystery” ingredients. You can feed your baby many of the same foods that you and your family eat by taking care to avoid adding extra salt and sugar as you cook whole foods. You will also want to prepare fresh food ingredients so that they are simple for baby to hold, softer for a young baby to chew, and easy for baby to swallow.
Withholding Certain Foods Does Not Prevent Food Allergies
In years past, many pediatricians recommended that parents avoid feeding their babies and young children certain foods to prevent food allergies and intolerances. Now, it is believed that doing so may increase the likelihood that your child will experience a food allergy.
Allergists and other healthcare professionals now recommend that you allow your baby to try cooked whole eggs, nut butters and wheat to ward off allergies and sensitivities. Do keep in mind that you will still want to avoid giving whole nuts until three years of age as nut and nut pieces remain a choking hazard at that time, and you should also avoid giving raw honey to children under the age of 1 because of the very small, slight chance of botulism.
Allow Baby to Eat with the Family as Soon as Possible
Allow your baby to eat alongside the family in the high chair, as soon as possible. Doing so will expose baby to good eating habits as well as improve their socialization skills.
7 Healthy First Foods for Baby to Try
In the beginning, you will want all of the food that you feed your baby to be very soft. Boiling, steaming, stewing and pureeing are great choices when preparing baby’s first foods. Start out by feeding baby single servings of food, and slowly progress to mixed meals. Try some of these recipes as your baby’s first foods to help your baby’s taste buds and appetite to develop.
While not always the case, tofu is now considered safe for babies and young children to eat. Silken tofu is great when blended with soft fruits to make smoothies. You can make an easy to eat finger food for baby by cutting semi-firm tofu into small cubes, about ½ inches in diameter, and then dip them in crushed cereal.
Baby will also enjoy eating small, sliced pieces of shell or elbow macaroni pasta. Choose whole grain pasta for an extra nutritional punch, and serve them plain at first. Later, as baby progresses on to mixed dishes, you can add pureed meat or red sauce as a topping before switching over to spaghetti with sauce and bite-sized pieces of noodles.
Yogurt is an excellent choice for one of your baby’s first food options as it has plenty of calcium, protein, and healthy probiotics if you select one with active cultures. Liven up the flavor by adding small bits of diced, cooked fruits such as sliced poached peaches, pears, and apples. If you want to add berries, such as raspberry, strawberry or blueberry, be certain to slice them into small pieces, and cook them over low heat with a bit of butter and water, or even with a few slices of another fruit, such as pears. Cook until they are smooth and the consistency of a loose jelly or syrup and then mix into the yogurt.
Cauliflower is a great first food for baby because it contains so many healthy nutrients as well as being fast and easy to cook until soft. It also blends well with other foods. Try steaming, boiling or broiling ½ cup of cauliflower florets with ½ cup of peeled pumpkin until soft. Mash with a fork or use a blender or food processor to puree. Add in a bit of cheddar cheese for extra flavor.
An Oldie but a Goodie – The Classic PB&J
Traditional peanut butter with jelly sandwiches has always been a hit with parents and children of all ages. Experiment with other smooth nut butters in addition to peanut based ones. Use whole wheat bread and choose a fruit spread with little extra sugar added during processing for extra nutrition.
You can also make your own jam by slicing a cup of strawberries and cooking them over low heat in a small amount of butter. Allow the mixture to cool and then blend until smooth before using on baby’s sandwiches and crackers.
Chicken with Vegetables and Pasta Puree
Chicken breast is a wholesome choice if you are looking for a lean meat to add to baby’s diet. Kick up the flavor of pureed chicken a notch or two by dicing a chicken breast and adding ¼ cup of corn kernels and ¼ cup of pasta along with a cup and a half of water and bringing the mixture to a boil. Allow to simmer until the pasta is cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes. When the mixture cools somewhat, use a blender or food processor to make the mixture smooth.
Beans are Magical Because They are Delicious and Easy to Chew
Green beans that have been boiled or steamed until they are soft are a great choice for one of baby’s first foods because they easy for baby to hold, chew and swallow. Other legumes, such as red lentils, are also a recommended choice because they don’t have to be soaked as long as many other dried beans, and they can be quickly cooked into porridge like consistency. You can add flavor by cooking about 1 cup of split red lentils with ½ cup peeled, diced carrots and ¼ cup rice. Boil and simmer until the lentils cook down and resemble porridge. Older babies will enjoy the texture and taste without extra blending, or you can use a blender or food processor to puree and make very smooth for younger babies.
Of course, there are many other combinations of ingredients that you can try when making your baby’s first foods. Experimenting with combinations of fresh whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean meats will help you to discover what foods your baby likes best. Always keep in mind that you will want to cook foods until they are soft and smooth until baby is over one year of age, and large pieces of food, including nuts and nut pieces, should be avoided until baby is three to minimize the risk of choking.