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Feeding infants in America has become big business.
From squishy packets of ready-to-eat veggies to 15-piece baby food prep appliances (mini-baby food blender included), it’s all become so complicated! Choosing healthy food for babies under 1 year can be simple, and it should be.
If you’re feeling ready, and your doctor has given you the ok, starting solid foods is an exciting milestone in your child’s life. It may be tempting to give Baby all the sweet fruits first. However, giving them veggies and savory will encourage a broad taste palate and a less picky eater later on.
Besides, after eating veggies and stews the sweet stuff will taste extra delicious! Basic fruit is an easy toddler snack. You won’t have to worry about buying or making sweetened snacks when they’re older.
One thing to keep in mind when starting solids – healthy food for babies under 1 year means nutritious food.
Whatever you give them should be nutrient-dense.
Your baby doesn’t necessarily need food before 1. They would thrive just fine on either breastmilk or formula. You may have heard the saying “Food before one is just for fun,” and to a certain extent, that is true. Your baby doesn’t NEED food, but practicing eating food and chewing is always a good thing.
Most doctors in America will say solid food can be introduced as early as 4 months of age. More official recommendations are closer to 6 months. If you’re interested in what babies are fed around the world, check out this page.
Feeding your baby is a personal decision. Following their cues and waiting for their interest in food is the best way to start.
Here are some of the best foods to serve to your new little eater. Veggies should be cooked to soften them (ideally in homemade broth to add vitamins and minerals) and fruits should be stewed and pureed with some sort of fat (like pastured butter or ghee) to aid in digestion and ease sugar absorption.
These are a bonafide superfood. They will benefit your baby’s eyes, brain, and urinary tract system. Not mention they are absolutely delicious.
A great source of calcium and vitamin D, Yogurt also supports brain development and boosts the immune system. Yogurt is also a probiotic that will help regulate your baby’s digestive system. Make sure to get the full-fat version! Babies and toddlers should not be consuming low-fat dairy. Also make sure Baby doesn’t have a cow’s milk sensitivity before offering yogurt.
Squash is not only naturally sweet. It’s also high in vitamins A and D.
Lentils are cheap and full of the good stuff, protein and fiber. They are also versatile and can be served in many different combinations. Try stewing them with vegetables, mixing the with rice, or using them in a simple soup.
This category includes spinach, kale, chard, and collard greens. They are all full of iron and folate, but they can also make Baby a little gassy. If Baby seems gassy after eating them, hold off on serving them for another couple of months.
Broccoli is another super food full of folate, iron, and calcium. It’s also known for its powerful cancer-fighting compounds. Again, cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, etc.) can make Baby a bit gassy. If they do, just remove them from Baby’s diet for a few months. Then, try again!
Avocados are a super healthy food for babies under 1 year. They’re a great source of the kind of fat that is ideal for brain development. Avocados are also great alone or with a tiny bit of sea salt. With their sturdy shell, they make a good take along snack.
Meat may not be a typical baby food but it is a great source of zinc and iron. Serve as a stew to make the meat flavorful and soft so you don’t have to be worried about choking.
Stewed prunes add fiber and help alleviate constipation, common for babies newly introduced to solid foods.
Beets have folic acid, potassium, beta-carotene, and are very sweet. Odds are your baby will take a liking to them. They’re a super nutritious healthy food for babies under 1 year. Just make sure to cook them until they’re soft.
A list of healthy food for babies under 1 year wouldn’t be complete without a list of foods to completely avoid at this age.
Avoid the following foods
Raw honey contains botulinum spores. Because of their immature gastrointestinal tracts, babies are at a high risk of botulism. After the age of 1 their gut is more developed and botulism is no longer a risk.
The fiber in fruits helps the body absorb and process the fruit sugars slowly. Feeding your baby juice is basically feeding them pure sugar. You can dilute the juice with water. A good ratio is 1/4 juice and 3/4 water. We recommend avoiding juice altogether.
Though ok in moderation for an adult, a baby doesn’t need candy or sweets. They have absolutely no nutritional value, but they have calories that will replace nutritious breastmilk. These are a no-no.
Many infants have cow’s milk sensitivities that cause colic-like symptoms in breastfed babies whose moms consume dairy. You may not have to avoid this altogether. Just make sure Baby doesn’t have a cow’s milk sensitivity.
These complex carbs are stripped of all nutrients during the refining process. Also, most grains are hard for new eaters to digest. Despite the many recommendations of rice cereal as a first food, consider holding off on grains until baby is 1.
Foods that are a choking hazard
Why take the risk with foods your baby could easily choke on? Avoid serving food that doesn’t easily dissolve in the mouth or food that can be sucked down to block their airway. Healthy food for babies under 1 year should not include raisins, whole grapes, uncooked carrots, raw apples, and peas. You can serve these foods once your baby’s molars come in and they have the ability to break down food.
Any Unpasteurized Foods
Unpasteurized foods can carry dangerous bacteria that can cause life-threatening illnesses in babies and young children.
Smoked and Cured Meats
Bacon is especially delicious but has a lot of nitrates, sodium, and many chemicals. Babies don’t need to be exposed so young. This also rules out bologna and other processed meats.
Fish High in Mercury
Fish is good for healthy brain development but fish with too much mercury can pose a threat. Consider downloading the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Consumer Guide for your area.
Wild salmon, sardines, and pollock are great choices to support Baby’s brain growth.
There is plenty of healthy food for babies under 1. When you begin introducing food to your baby, introduce one food at a time to see if your baby has an allergic reaction. Start slow and follow their cues. They may not be ready when you are.
When you get a good idea of what your baby likes and doesn’t like, you can start putting together more food and making nutritionally sound meals on a regular schedule. Remember that food shouldn’t be replacing breastmilk or formula just yet. It is merely an addition. Always offer breastmilk or formula first and then offer food.
Enjoy this time and have fun experimenting and offering new foods. Your baby will enjoy it (hopefully) as much as you do. Healthy food for babies under 1 year may be just for fun but, it’s also fun for Mom and Dad.
Featured image source: www.wholesomebabyfood.momtastic.com