When it comes to feeding baby, there’s no “Top 10” list of super foods for moms to print out, stick on the fridge and stick to. (Sorry!) But experts agree that limiting your little one to a few “best” foods in her first year (or any year, for that matter) would actually do her a disservice. “The first year of life is when the palate is trained,” says Tina Ruggiero, MS, RD, LD, coauthor of The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet. “The three rules I tell my clients to follow are: Go for color, think fresh and introduce new flavors and different textures at age-appropriate stages. Following these guidelines, parents will find more than 10 fruits, more than 10 vegetables and more than 10 proteins to try.” And while you’ll also want to talk with baby’s pediatrician for guidance, adding the following great options to baby’s diet—and avoiding a few first-year no-no foods—will get him or her off to a healthy start.
We’ve all heard (and heard, and heard) that breast is best. But
just because baby is ready to move beyond the boob doesn’t mean you should stop
nursing. After all, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends
exclusive breastfeeding for about six months. But the organization also
recommends that breastfeeding continue along with solid fooods until baby is 12
months old—or longer, if it works for both mom and baby. “The very best food
for the first year is breast milk,” says Loraine Stern, MD, FAAP, coauthor of
the book Nutrition: What Every Parent Needs to Know.
Best Age for Breast Milk: Birth and older
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Baby is born with a natural supply of iron, but it’ll be
depleted by the time she’s around 6 months old, Stern says, so introducing
iron-rich foods is essential. One that fits the bill: iron-fortified cereal. It
doesn’t have to be the traditional first food of rice cereal—oatmeal and barley
are good options too—just make sure you start with a single-grain formula.
Best Age for Iron-Fortified Cereal: Four to six months
Avocados are a great first fruit to offer baby, because they’re
loaded with monounsaturated fats (that’s the good kind!) and have a mild taste
and smooth consistency. They’re super-easy to prepare too: Simply mash a very
ripe avocado with a little breast milk or formula until it reaches a pureed
Best Age for Avocados: Six months and older
Okay, so there’s no baby super food—but sweet potatoes come
pretty close. According to The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet,
they’re one of the most nutritious foods for baby. Why? They’re rich in
beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A—and that’s “important for
good vision, healthy skin, normal growth and protection from infections.” Plus,
many babies like the soft, pudding-like texture of pureed sweet potatoes, says
Susan Casey, RD, CD, pediatric clinical dietitian at Seattle Children’s
Best Age for Sweet Potatoes: Six months and older
Meat—like chicken, lamb or beef—is an excellent source of
protein, as well as iron, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and zinc. Just make
sure it’s pureed to a smooth texture. (According to Nutrition, for
infants, “even finely chopped meat may be hard to handle and cause choking.”)
Try mixing the pureed meat with breast milk and a favorite veggie puree if
you’re preparing it yourself, or buy plain pureed jarred meats.
Best Age for Meat: 7 to 10 months and older
“Beets are an extraordinary nutrient source,” says Ruggiero.
“They’re a good source of folic acid, high in potassium and beta-carotene, and
they’re a sweet veggie—which babies take a liking to quickly.” Roast or steam
them until they’re super-soft; then mash them.
Best Age for Beets: 11 months and older
Plain (not vanilla) whole-milk yogurt is another protein-rich
option for baby—plus, it contains calcium and beneficial live active cultures.
(Confused as to why yogurt made with cow’s milk is okay for babies, but actual
cow’s milk isn’t? “Very simply, lactose is already broken down with the
culturing of the yogurt, and milk proteins are either removed or limited, so
it’s easy for baby to digest,” says Ruggiero.)
Best Age for Yogurt: Nine months and older
Believe it or not, many experts love good old-fashioned
Cheerios. The little O’s in the yellow box are an excellent finger food and a
good source of fiber. “I don’t think childhood would exist without Cheerios,”
Best Age for Cheerios: Nine months and older
A FEW FIRST YEAR NO-NOS
Tempted to sweeten up baby’s bland pear sauce with a touch of honey? Don’t. According to Nutrition, “Honey is linked to infant botulism, an illness that can be fatal.” The tummies of babies under age one simply can’t deactivate the botulism spores that might be in honey, Stern says. So avoid this food until baby has passed his or her first birthday.
Nuts And Peanuts
You can introduce small amounts of creamy—not chunky—peanut butter when your child is one year old (try spreading a thin layer on a cracker), but avoid nuts in whole form until he or she is 4 years old to prevent choking.
Babies just can’t easily digest cow’s milk, which is one reason why experts recommend waiting until the one-year mark before offering it.