It's common for new parents to be concerned about what to feed their bundle of joy and when. While it's a good idea to follow the tried-and-tested markers for when to feed your baby, it's also helpful to learn what variety of foods to provide to your little one. For instance, pureed red meat is a vital source of iron that your baby can ingest earlier than you might expect. Rather than relying on processed baby snacks, we have a list of whole food tips and tricks to keep your baby healthy and nourished.
Try Iron-Fortified Rice Cereal
Apart from being a good source of carbohydrates, baby cereal can also provide iron before you're ready to serve your little one meat. You can throw in some pureed fruit as a start to your baby's transition away from a milk diet. The cereal also can help thicken watery purees as they move towards whole foods.
Rice cereal is a good choice since it generally is allergen safe, compared to other grains. While newborns won't need to start ingesting iron for the first several months, it's good to incorporate it into their food diet around five months.
Peas Are An Excellent Source Of Protein And Fiber
Just a half cup of peas has four grams of both fiber and protein, which is double what many other vegetables offer. Their next best nutritional source is vitamin A, a vital contributor to healthy vision and a strong immune system.
While it may seem obvious that a tiny food like peas is a good pick for babies, it's important to puree them. Digesting the peas whole prevents saliva from being able to break them down before they get to the stomach.
Coconut Oil Helps Kill Unwanted Microorganisms
Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a substance that forms monolaurin when ingested. They then work together to kill specific unwanted pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus, according to The New York University Medical Center.
Additionally, they are one of the few fats that contain medium-chain triglycerides, meaning that they are a quicker source of energy. Studies have also shown coconut oil to increase your good HDL cholesterol, which helps keep the heart healthy. Cook your baby's veggies in coconut oil or drizzle a small amount on their food.
Blueberries Are High In Antioxidants
While most fruit is a good source of antioxidants, blueberries are one of the champions. Antioxidants work to protect your body from free radicals, which are unavoidable even for babies. Studies have also found that incorporating blueberries into your diet may help improve brain function.
One particular kind of antioxidant in blueberries, anthocyanins, have also been found to improve insulin sensitivity, meaning that they may lower the risk of developing diabetes. Babies love their sweet taste, just be sure to puree them while your baby is too young to chew.
Tomatoes Are Rich In Lycopene
Lycopene is an antioxidant that is responsible for the red pigment in tomatoes. In addition to protecting from free radicals, lycopene also may help protect against pesticides, herbicides, and MSGs.
If that weren't enough, researchers in Manchester also found that participants were less likely to have skin reactions to sunlight if they had higher levels of lycopene in their system. While it's vital to protect baby skin from the sun, the more protection from the inside out, the better. Offer your baby some tomato juice or sauce, or puree fresh tomatoes yourself.
Beans Are Healthy For The Gut
Apart from being high in fiber, certain kinds like black beans have been proven to increase healthy gut bacteria. They also have been shown to improve the intestinal barrier function, which is a fancy way of saying they can help intestines keep the bad stuff out of the rest of the body while absorbing proper nutrients.
WebMD says that six months old is a safe age to introduce beans into your baby's diet. Just cook them until they are soft and mashed them up or cut them into small pieces.
Butternut Squash Has A Ton Of Potassium
For many, the go-to food to feed their baby potassium is bananas. While it's true that bananas are a great source of potassium and a good food for babies, butternut squash may do you one better.
Lower in sugar than bananas, butternut squash is still sweet while also providing more potassium per cup than an entire banana. Additionally, it has a good source of manganese and vitamin B5 and B6, all of which help break down the new foods your baby is trying.
Beef Is High In Zinc
While it may not be a surprise that beef is an excellent source of protein and iron, lesser talked about is its high content in zinc. Zinc is vital for the body to grow, which babies do a ton of. It also helps with blood clotting and immune function, making it a great recovery aid.
Beef is also high in several B vitamins, one being B12 which is derived from animal products. WebMD suggests offering babies meat when they are as young as six months old. Puree it with something sweet, like squash or sweet potatoes, to enhance the flavor for the baby.
Fatty Fish Provide DHA
DHA is the shorthand for a particular omega-3 fatty acid that contributes to the health of the brain, skin, and eye retinas. Salmon is one fish that contains high amounts of DHA and is safe to give to your baby, when pureed, at the age of six months.
Some babies may prefer the more mild taste of white fish which is lower in fatty acids but is comparable in its source of protein and vitamins. With either fish, it's a good idea to mix it with a vegetable that your baby loves, to ease them into the new taste.
Yogurt Contains Phosphorus
While it's become well-known that yogurt aids in healthy gut bacteria, another benefit is its content of phosphorus. This mineral is necessary to maintain strong bones and teeth, in addition to calcium and protein which are also high in yogurt.
Phosphorus also helps build DNA and RNA and helps grow cells and tissues, which a baby's body is active in doing. Rather than grabbing the flavored yogurts, aim for the plain yogurt to avoid sucrose. Sweeten it yourself with some pureed fruits for a power meal.
Avocados Have Protein
Avocados are one of the only fruits to have protein, offering 4 grams in one 200-gram piece. Additionally, most of the carbohydrates in the fruit are from fiber, which is helpful for the gut. One of the most popular components of the avocado is its healthy fats.
The monounsaturated fats in avocado are good for the heart and also may help prevent the development of diabetes. Finally, avocadoes are loaded with vitamins. Let the avocado get nice and ripe, and then mash it up with a spoon and let your baby try it.
Broccoli Contains Vitamin C
Aside from being a good source of protein and fiber, broccoli also contains 65% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C. Mind you, that percentage refers to adults so a little bit of broccoli goes a long way for your baby's immune system.
The vegetable also contains folic acid, iron, potassium, and beta-carotene (the stuff in carrots that makes them good for your eyes). Steam the broccoli instead of boiling it to retain its Vitamin C and puree with something sweet or a slice of meat.
Quinoa Contains Lysine
Lysine, which is found in quinoa, is one of the essential amino acids meaning it's a building block of the body. However, researchers have found that it may also help reduce anxiety and the stress hormone cortisol, according to a study conducted at the Institute of Life Sciences in Japan.
Furthermore, lysine may help the body better absorb and retain calcium, which is vital for your baby's growing bones. Start offering quinoa to your baby once they can chew, especially by mixing it in with meat or fish.
Bananas Are A Good Source Of Carbs
While many adults aim to avoid carbohydrates for the sake of trimming their waistline, a baby needs a lot of them in order to fuel their brain and body, which is growing and learning at lightning speed.
Bananas provide them with this energy as well as with Vitamin B6 and C, manganese, fiber, and potassium. On top of that, they're very easy to prepare. Just wait for the banana to get nice and ripe, and mash it up. It can be a great sweetener for yogurt, too.
Chicken Contains Vitamin B6
Chicken, as well as other forms of poultry, contains vitamin B6. This vitamin helps produce hemoglobin, which may help prevent anemia. Research also shows that those with higher levels of vitamin B6 tend to have healthier hearts, according to the Institute for Cardiovascular Research in Amsterdam.
In addition, chicken is lean meat that is loaded with protein, which your baby will need to grow and double their weight in a matter of months. Cut chicken into tiny pieces that are too small for your baby to choke on. It may also be helpful to mix the meat with a vegetable or fruit.
Carrots Are Loaded With Beta Carotene
Carrots are one of the more common foods to be associated with beta carotene due to their vibrant pigment. Beta carotene is the substance that gives carrots and other fruits and vegetable their orange or yellow hue. The antioxidant helps promote growth.
When digested, beta carotene is converted to vitamin A which plays a vital role in skin and eye health, as well as a strong immune system. Cook the carrots until they are nice and soft and mash them to make it easy for your baby to consume and digest.
Citrus Fruits Are Full Of Plant Compounds
Citrus fruits are a great choice for babies since they are full of water, soft, easy to suckle, and have a host of health benefits. In addition to containing high levels of vitamins and minerals, citrus fruits also contain plants compounds.
The compounds consist of things like essential oils and antioxidants such as flavonoids, which help reduce inflammation. They also are high in vitamin C. You can easily puree the fruits or cut them into pieces for babies who can chew.
Oats Have Soluble And Insoluble Fiber
Oats are an ideal choice for babies due to their phytochemicals, protein, and minerals. However, they also contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Both kinds of fiber are needed to maintain a healthy digestive tract.
Soluble fiber pulls in water and becomes a gel-like substance when ingested, slowing down digestion and preventing blood sugar spikes. Insoluble fiber adds mass to digestion that can help encourage the passage of food. Oatmeal is a perfect food for your baby, but it may be ideal to stray away from the packets which may be high in sugar.
Cheese Contains Riboflavin
One slice of cheese contains about 0.08 grams of Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2. This vitamin helps the body transform macronutrients, like carbohydrates, into energy. It also aids in the body's use of oxygen.
Cheese, like many dairy products, is also a good source of protein and calcium. It's recommended to cut the cheese into tiny pieces that your baby can gum without it being a choking hazard and that you wait until they are around 9 months of age.