Exciting times; you’ve decided the time is right to introduce solids to your precious baby! So where to start? As food preferences are largely established in the early years and usually well formed by around two years of age, it is crucial to set off on the right foot.
As I’ve already discussed, reducing your babies chemical exposure is critical given their small body size and immature detoxification pathways. For more on setting the foundations for good health, click here. How you prepare your food is also important to make sure every mouthful, is indeed providing the nutrition they require. For more on this, click here.
Culture governs choice
In every culture, tradition largely governs babies first foods. Many cultures start with egg yolk, liver (often raw), fresh fish, brains, coconut cream or bone marrow as first foods. When looking at these and other traditional first foods, the one thing they have in common is that they are nutrient and enzyme rich foods. In India, babies are introduced immediately to aromatic spices like cinnamon, mint, cumin, coriander and mint (hot spices come later).
In much of the Western world, commercialised, fortified cereals are advocated as babies best start. The problem is, that babies don’t make the enzyme (amylase) break down (digest) carbohydrate until around 8 months of age. On top of this, there are many anti-nutrients in the grain which can strain babies digestive system. Many experts in this field agree, there are better alternatives than a fortified grain for babies first foods.
What to choose and why?
To begin with, focus on introducing protein, vegetables, and good fats. Always introduce one food at a time every 3-4 days to identify possible intolerance. Fruit, with the exception of avocado, should come later.
Egg yolk is a rich source of protein, omega 3 fatty acids, and choline for brain and nervous system development (organic eggs have the best concentration of nutrients). The egg white is highly allergenic and should be avoided until 12 months of age. To prepare, just boil the egg, remove the yolk (which you can even mix through pureed vegetables).
Liver and brains
Should only ever be organic and grass fed. They are a rich source of protein, brain and nervous system building fats, iron and a complex range of vitamins and minerals.
Again, only from organic animals is a great source of fat and fat-soluble vitamins.
Bone broth is one of the most nutrient dense foods you could serve baby. It is rich in collagen building nutrients, protein, and minerals. For a baby with any digestive or immune issues, this is a critical inclusion. For more on why bone broth is so amazing and a recipe to make it, click here. You can make it with just bone or add in vegetables already introduced.
Vegetables, always cooked, are a wonderful source of fibre and plant-derived nutrients. Pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, beetroot, swede, and zucchini are good first vegetables and generally very easy to digest. Introduce broccoli, cauliflower, and peas next. After trying vegetable purees by themselves, once you are sure your baby is tolerating them, you can start to combine them in any way you like (including with avocado and the proteins above).
Fats such as butter, ghee (clarified butter) and coconut oil are essential additions to any pureed vegetables to ensure all of the fat soluble vitamins are easily assimilated by baby. Coconut oil is an amazing source of lauric acid – the immune protective fat found in human breast milk. For every 300 gram of vegetables, add a teaspoon of butter, ghee or coconut oil. Note – if baby is dairy intolerant, only use ghee or coconut oil. If allergic to dairy, choose coconut oil.
Avocado is a great source of monounsaturated fatty acids and contains folate, iron, and beta-carotene. Add it to pureed cooked vegetables for a nutrient hit.
Also, remember, it can take many tries before baby enjoys a new food. Their acceptance of taste and texture constantly changes and evolves. Try, try and try again.
Carrot and cumin puree
300 gram of carrot, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon of ghee, coconut oil or butter
Tiny pinch of cumin powder
Steam the carrot for 15 to 20 minutes or until the carrot is just cooked through. Add the fat of choice and cumin powder and puree until smooth.
Baked sweet potato
300 gram of sweet potato, washed
½ teaspoon of ghee or coconut oil
½ teaspoon of coconut oil, extra
Tiny pinch of cinnamon powder
- Preheat the oven to 150 degrees celsius.
- Coat the whole sweet potato in melted ghee or coconut oil.
- Place on a baking tray and bake until it is cooked through (a sharp knife meets no resistance when inserted into the fattest part of the sweet potato).
- Cool, halve and scoop out the flesh.
- Puree with the extra coconut oil and cinnamon until smooth.
If your child has rejected steamed sweet potato, try it baked. It has a different taste and texture when baked that many babies prefer.
For more on choosing babies first foods, click here.
For more on preparing and storing babies first foods, click here.