What to Feed a Baby: 4 Unexpected Foods to Add to the Menu
Does the idea of eating mashed peas and bananas for every meal all week long sound terribly boring to you? Chances are, your baby feels the same way.
Not only do babies enjoy noshing on new nibbles*, they can actually eat more foods than you might think—and we’ve got four fun options that are tasty and packed with important nutrition. Get ready to choose your own puréed culinary adventure!
#1. Can Babies Eat Meat?
Yes, they can. Iron is a key mineral necessary for healthy growth and brain development. If they have been exclusively breastfed (and haven’t been taking a supplement), your baby will go through the store of iron they were born with after four to six months. To ensure your baby’s iron levels remain in the healthy range, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends including meat among your wee one’s first foods, as meat contains a more easily absorbed form of iron than the kind found in plant sources.
Choice cuts: Beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, and pork. You can also feed baby low-mercury fish, a great source of DHA and other Omega-3s.
Good eats: While it’s perfectly fine to simply purée a piece of meat for baby’s dinner, they may enjoy the protein-hit more if it’s blended with veggies or fruits like sweet potatoes, peas, apples, carrots, zucchini, or mangos (once they’re ready for combinations).
#2. Can Babies Eat Eggs?
Yes, they can. Eggs are a very high-quality source of protein and contain 14 essential vitamins and nutrients, including choline, which is critical for brain development. Until recently, it was thought that babies should not eat egg whites (a common allergen) before turning one year old, and the yolks only after eight months.
But experts have now revised those recommendations, stating that there’s no evidence of any benefit to holding off on the eggs after a baby reaches six months old. In fact, research suggests early exposure may actually help decrease allergic reactions. If your baby does dine on eggs, simply keep an eye out for signs of an allergic reaction, such as swelling or a rash.
Get crackin’: Whether you’re going with the yolks, whites, or the whole egg, only serve them to your baby thoroughly cooked, as raw or undercooked eggs may contain salmonella.
Good eats: For those first bites, simply hard boil a whole egg, thoroughly mash it, and then serve it plain until you’re sure your little one doesn’t have any sensitivities to it. (If it’s too thick, you can thin the mash with a little breast milk, formula, or water.) After that, you can try mixing the mashed egg with a complementary purée, such as carrots, peas, or apples, until baby is ready for more solid fare.
#3. Can Babies Eat Yogurt?
Yes, they can. Because babies aren’t supposed to drink milk before their first birthday, many parents are surprised to discover that they have the green light to start giving their infant yogurt by the six-month mark. The live cultures (probiotics) that ferment milk into yogurt help break down the lactose and protein, making yogurt far easier for babies to digest.
Yogurt also provides a healthy dose of calcium (strong bones!) and vitamin B12, which helps keep nerve and blood cells healthy—and helps makes DNA!
Super scoops: Whole-fat and plain is the name of the game when it comes to yogurt for baby (flavored versions are loaded with added sugar).
Good eats: Serve yogurt by itself, swirl it into a purée, or sprinkle it with wheat germ or quinoa.
#4. Can Babies Eat Spices & Herbs?
Yes, they can. There’s really no health-related rule that says baby cuisine has to be bland—just poll the young eaters in India, Latin America, and the Middle East. And, if your child was breastfed, they may already have a broader palate than you think: A mother’s milk takes on the flavor of whatever she eats.
In addition to offering a nice dose of antioxidants, spices and herbs can make your child’s food taste better, inspiring them to be a more balanced and adventurous diner throughout their life.
Smart sprinkles: Cinnamon, nutmeg, oregano, cumin, turmeric, rosemary, thyme, parsley, paprika, and more!
Good eats: Stir cinnamon and nutmeg into cereal, whir up garlic and dill with fish, or splash a dash of cumin in carrots. Wait four to five days between introducing new spices or herbs just to be sure your tiny gourmand in training has no adverse reactions.
Why It’s Good to Explore New Foods for Babies
In our centers, we embrace family-style dining, as it teaches kids important social skills like passing items, sharing, being patient, and saying “please” and “thank you.” Allowing the children to get in on the serving action can also inspire them to try new foods.
And when safe and appropriate, we serve the same dishes to older children and kids in the infant room (as long as infants are ready and willing). That might come as a surprise to some, but we believe that healthy habits start early, and with the appropriate supervision, babies can become culinary explorers.
Of course, we’re not recommending that you hand baby a soup tureen of beef purée and a ladle! But you’d be surprised by how many foods babies can actually eat, and in some cases, feed themselves.
*As with anything, check with your doctor first. Most little ones take their first bites between four to six months, but regardless of age, they should be able to sit in a high chair and have good head control. The standard advice is to start with single-ingredient purées—wait three days before introducing another food to confirm your baby isn’t experiencing an allergic reaction such as rash, diarrhea, or vomiting. Never add salt or sweeteners.