What are the best first foods for babies?
One of the biggest questions when starting your baby on solid foods is which food to start with? Spoiler, there isn’t one best food for that first bite!
You do not need to start with infant cereals.
The main reason infant cereals were recommended as first foods originally were because they are usually easily tolerated and they are fortified with iron.
We do want you to think about iron.
Even though we do not think you need to start with cereal, you do need to think about iron. Iron needs increase drastically at 6 months; making it one of the most important nutrients to introduce with your baby’s new foods. Whatever method of feeding you are using (purees, baby led weaning, or a combination) you should aim to introduce iron rich foods first. The AAP recommends iron fortified cereals as well as pureed meats as they are both good sources of iron, zinc, and protein. The ESPGHAN Committee on Nutrition also recommends the use of meats and iron fortified products.
- Infant cereals are fortified with iron and are commonly used to meet iron needs, however they are not the only option.
- Animal proteins such as beef and chicken are excellent sources of iron (and zinc as well!).
- Plant sources of iron such as lentils, beans, and spinach are also great sources of iron, but should be paired with a source of vitamin C to improve absorption.
Infants also have very high fat needs, so it is important to introduce healthy fats early on in the feeding process as well. Don’t be scared to cook your own baby food with fat like olive oil or butter.
Mix it up.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends introducing a variety of flavors and textures early. Not only is it important to offer food that is nutritionally dense, it is also important to offer a wide variety of foods. Providing your baby a varied diet by 1 year of age leads to less pickiness overall later in life.
There is no evidence that introducing fruits first leads to babies having a “sweet tooth.”
On the contrary, there is some evidence that giving vegetables at the same time fruits are given, leads to more acceptance of vegetables (peaches and green beans anybody?). It is true that preferences for sweet are innate, and typically acceptance of vegetables is learned. However, this is about exposure and not about which one you give first. So remember to keep offering up those green beans over and over!
What about single foods versus combined foods?
The jury is still out on this one. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology currently still recommend starting with single foods first. This is to allow kids to experience foods individually and to identify which one causes an allergic reaction or other problem if one happens. However, some experts recommend combining foods from the beginning. Talk to your pediatrician or a Foublie coach about which method would be best for your family.
It’s all about practice
Keep in mind that most of your child’s nutrition at this stage will still be coming from breastmilk or formula. Start with 1 practice “meal” per day and work your way up to 3 meals and 2-3 snacks by age 1.
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