Ready to Feed Your Baby Solids? These 17 Foods Are the Perfect Place to Start
Your baby is sitting upright without support, showing interest in food, and holding their head up by themself. In other words, your baby is showing signs that they may be ready to eat solid food! While this important milestone is often accompanied by a lot of excitement, it can also come with some confusion and hesitation. Which foods are OK to feed your baby? Which foods do you need to avoid? Will your baby choke? Will you trigger an allergy?
Take a deep breath, parents. As a registered dietician, I rounded up 17 safe foods that are great first-food options for babies. Keep in mind that these foods are to be used to complement breast milk or formula, not replace it. Often, first foods are modified to a puree texture and fed to baby on a spoon, but some families choose to follow baby-led weaning principles where babies feed themselves more solid foods (think a slice of an avocado that the baby can hold by themself). Babies should be introduced to solid foods no earlier than 4 months of age, while some experts suggest waiting until baby is 6 months old. Ultimately, it depends on your individual baby's development and your healthcare provider's professional opinion.
So, what can you feed your baby? Here are 17 foods that are excellent first-food options for your little one's dining pleasure. Bon appétit!
Eggs are an inexpensive, nutrient-dense, and delicious first food for baby. They are loaded with brain-supporting nutrients like choline, zinc, iron, and iodine and are also a source of high-quality protein.
In the past, it was recommended to avoid eggs until baby was older to reduce the risk of developing an egg allergy. In light of more recent research, these recommendations have taken a 180-degree turn. The current guidelines encourage feeding babies foods like eggs early and often to expose their little bodies to these proteins and potentially reduce the allergic risk. Avoiding eggs does not protect your baby from developing an egg allergy, according to the data.
To feed your baby eggs, puree or mash one hard-boiled or scrambled egg and serve it on a spoon. For a more liquid consistency, add breast milk or water to the puree. If you are trying baby-led weaning, hand your baby an entire egg yolk from a hard-boiled egg (make sure it is cooked all the way through!). You can also slice a whole cooked egg into quarters or cut an omelet into strips and watch him enjoy that nutritional powerhouse!
Plain Whole-Milk Yogurt
While it is true that the medical community recommends avoiding drinking cow's milk until your baby turns 12 months old, that does not mean that all dairy foods need to be avoided. In fact, certain dairy foods should be a part of baby's diet starting at 6 months.
Whole-milk, unsweetened yogurt is an excellent first food for baby and can be eaten safely at 6 months of age. The proteins found in yogurt are easily digested by baby and the vitamin, mineral, and nutrient amounts are perfect for what baby needs — like calcium for strong bones and teeth. Yogurt's texture is also appropriate for babies exploring foods for the first time. It also naturally contains live probiotics which can help support a healthy tummy and immune system.
Start by feeding baby yogurt on a spoon. Once that is accepted, try mixing yogurt with other purees. Whole-milk, unsweetened yogurt and pureed banana seems to be a favorite among the baby community!
Beef may not be top of mind when it comes to a first food, but it should – especially if your baby is being breastfed. Beginning around 6 months of age, exclusively breastfed babies are at risk of not getting enough of certain important nutrients like iron and zinc. Complementary foods need to fill in the gaps.
Beef is a perfect food to provide baby with iron and zinc. Why is this important? Deficiencies in these minerals are associated with negative effects on a child's development, learning, behavior, and growth.
Providing your baby with pureed well-cooked beef is a protein and nutrient-packed option as a first food that helps baby meet her iron and zinc needs. You can add some broth or soft veggies to your puree to play with the flavor and consistency if you'd like. Baby-led weaning? Try homemade meatballs or meatloaf! Both area easy to grasp and the soft beef will be easy for baby to eat safely.
Cooked, soft pears are a perfect first food for baby. Pears deliver on key nutrients like fiber and vitamin C, plus their texture is ideal. Babies can enjoy them pureed or mashed and then as finger food when they're older. Most of the fiber and antioxidants are found in the skin of pears, so include that in the puree/mash to enjoy the full benefits. For the baby led weaning crowd, a sliced soft-cooked pear can be given to baby to gnaw on safely.
The great thing about pears is that they complement both sweet and savory foods – blend or mash them with cooked carrots or butternut squash, or other fruits for a fun sensory experience.
The old-school theory of avoiding sweet food as a first food to shape baby's taste preferences has never been proven. For better or for worse, babies preference for sweets is innate and universal.
Bananas are naturally sweet and soft, two features that babies seem to love. Mashed, sliced, or whole, babies often get really psyched when they are offered this fruit as a first food.
Avocado is a naturally soft and sugar-free first which that is loaded with important nutrients and amazing taste. From fiber to folate, avocados are a powerhouse when it comes to nutrition.
What makes avocado a unique fruit (yes, fruit) is the fat content. The healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats the avocado provides supports baby's growth and development naturally. Babies need up to 55 percent of their calories to come from fat, so avocados certainly fit the bill.
To feed your baby avocado, simply mash or puree the peeled and pitted fruit and feed it to your baby on a spoon! For the baby-lead weaning crowd, offering a slice of avocado is all you have to do to expose your baby to this delish toast topping!
Dark Meat Chicken
High-quality protein sources like dark and white meat chicken can support proper muscle and tissue growth during the first 1,000 days of life. Feeding your little sweetie chicken as a first food is a great way to ensure she is getting in important protein and fats, along with nutrients that benefit cognitive development, like vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and choline. Dark meat appears to have slightly more iron as compared to white meat, which makes it a great choice.
Including chicken as a first food is as simple as pureeing some cooked dark meat with some broth or cooked vegetables like carrots. For baby-lead weaning, just make sure the chicken that you serve is soft enough for your baby to grab and chew easily.
We know that exposing babies to foods that are potential allergens early and often can help reduce the risk of baby developing allergies. And we know that healthy fats, vitamin D, and protein are super-important for baby's development. Feeding your baby salmon as a first food is one of the healthiest options out there. Just cook it, mash it, and mix it with some liquid (if needed). Just watch out for any bones, and your baby should become a little seafoodie in no time!
Fortified Baby Oatmeal
We used to automatically feed babies rice cereal as a first food. That pasty, bland cereal preference has fallen to the wayside due to the concern of arsenic levels naturally found in rice. Instead, many people are choosing iron fortified baby oatmeal as a first food. Oatmeal naturally contains fiber and therefore has less of a chance of causing constipation as compared to classic rice cereal, and is fortified with iron, the important mineral that many breastfed babies need to get in via complimentary foods.
Iron-fortified baby oatmeal is easily prepared. Just mix with breast milk or formula (follow the directions on the box for exact quantities) and watch your baby open her mouth to accept the yumminess. Over time, you can mix foods like pureed fruit into the oatmeal for added variety.
Plums and Prunes
Feeding your baby solid foods can come with some unwanted side effects, one being constipation. Incorporating stewed and pureed prunes or plums as a first food will help stay ahead of any bowel movement back-up.
Prunes are also loaded with important vitamins and minerals. They are naturally sweet, so no added sugar is needed for baby's acceptance. Prunes are a versatile option to combine with foods like meats and oats to provide baby with a boost of flavor.
Pureed prunes are an appropriate first food, as well as slices of stewed or peeled fresh plums for those who are baby-led weaning.
What can you do with the pumpkin scraps you have left over from your jack-o-lantern carving? Make some baby food, of course! Pumpkin is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber to help keep your li'l pumpkin healthy. Sprinkle in some interesting seasonings like cardamom or cinnamon to get your baby's taste buds used to some savory flavors, too!
To make pumpkin, just bake and puree the flesh. If you are baby-led weaning, try out some baked pumpkin fries for an easy-to-grasp and soft treat!
Poi, mashed and cooked taro root, is a popular food of the Pacific Islands and is a great option as a first food for babies. When cooked, it looks similar to a light purple mashed potato. Taro root offers many benefits to baby, such as providing live probiotics (significantly more of these bacteria per gram than yogurt, according to some data), fiber, and potassium. Documented evidence suggests that taro shows promise for use in infants with allergies or failure-to-thrive.
To make poi, simply peel and steam taro root and mash it with some breastmilk or formula to make an appropriate consistency. Baby-led weaning? Just bake or boil taro root for a simple first food for baby to enjoy.
Sweet potatoes are a versatile, inexpensive, and nutritious option for your baby's first food. The vitamin A naturally found in these beautiful tubers helps support baby's rapid growth and helps combat infections.
Simply bake or boil a sweet potato and mash it to an appropriate consistency before you serve it. You may want to add some breast milk or formula to the mash if it needs to be a little thinner. Baked sweet potato fries are a simple solution if pureed foods aren't your style.
Peas have a nice taste and texture that babies typically enjoy. They also provides baby with plant-based protein, vitamins, and minerals (like calcium and iron). But if you are choosing peas as your baby's first food, just make sure baby is wearing a bib before dinnertime starts . . . it is not fun trying to get pea stains out of a onesie!
To prep peas for baby, simply steam fresh or frozen peas and puree them. Add some breast milk or formula if liquid is needed. This puree easily freezes and stores nicely. Some baby-led weaning experts claim that peas are not a choking hazard due to their small size, but as always, it is best to talk to your health care provider before feeding whole peas to your young baby.
Green beans can be an excellent first food for babies to expose her to some green veggies. Rich in folate and fiber, green beans can be easily made for your baby to enjoy. Simply wash and steam or boil some fresh or frozen green beans (stay away from canned, as this option can be higher in sodium), mash or puree them, and feed! Baby-led weaning families can feel free to offer your little one a steamed cooked green bean on the high chair tray. Pro tip: Don't be surprised if you find some green surprises in your baby's diaper within the few hours after that feeding!
Mangos are an amazing first food for babies due to their natural antioxidant-rich health features. No need to add sugar to this naturally sweet and vitamin-packed fruit. Babies will love pureed mango for its sweet taste. You can mash it up and spoon feed it to your little one. And a slice of fresh mango without skin is a-ok to give to your baby led weaning infant. Don't worry, if you sneak a taste or two, we won't tell.
What is more classic than feeding your baby apple sauce? It is a perfect consistency and naturally sweet. Making homemade apple sauce with Opal apples is a great choice as a first food because it's totally easy. Opal apples are non-GMO, naturally non-browning, and have a sweet taste that eliminates any need for added sugar.
To make apple sauce, simply boil peeled apples until soft, cool, and puree! As baby gets older, you can play with the texture and leave some apple chunks for baby's exploration. Easy, breezy, and totally yummy.