By Dr. Nicole Avena
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends only feeding your baby breastmilk or formula for the first six months of life. After that, solid foods can be introduced along with breastmilk or formula. After breast or formula feeding for so long, it can seem like an overwhelming task to try and construct a feeding plan that incorporates the variety of foods that humans need to eat on a daily basis to get all of the necessary nutrients to stay happy and healthy. Plus, baby’s first foods are important because they can set the stage for eating habits that will last a lifetime.
When To Feed Your Baby Whole Foods
When you do transition to solids, a whole-food based diet is recommended. Your baby will still be getting a lot of his or her nutrition from breastmilk or formula (since it is recommended to keep breast or formula feeding until 12 months old), but it is important to be picky with the types of solid foods your baby is eating.
Giving your baby soft fruits or pureed vegetables is a great way to incorporate high fiber and vitamin-rich foods into their diet. At 6 months, almost all foods should be pureed, but as your baby gets closer to one year, you can begin to experiment with different textures and ways of preparing foods (1).
What to Avoid
It is crucial to avoid ultra-processed foods as much as possible, for as long as possible. These types of foods usually contain high amounts of trans and saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium. All of these elements do not add to the nutritional profile of the foods, and in fact, have been shown to have negative impacts on development and health in babies, children, and adults. These types of foods have actually been correlated with the development of weight problems and obesity-related diseases.
While most of the more dangerous co-morbidities associated with a high body weight do not occur until later in life, introducing ultra-processed foods to children at a young age can result in them developing a palate for the very extreme and distinctive flavors or salt and sweet that are added to these foods. Consequently, they will likely crave, and eat, higher amounts of these types of foods later in life and may struggle with the health issues that come along with them (2).
The Best Foods for Healthy Development
The very best way to start out is to give your baby high quality, whole foods from the get-go. Look for foods that are organic or biodynamically grown or brands like White Leaf Provisions that use such produce in their lines of baby food.
Organic and biodynamically grown foods are special because of the unique method of farming they use. Pesticides and synthetic fertilizers are eliminated, and food is grown in harmony with the earth’s natural cycles, not against them. This means that fruit and vegetables coming from biodynamic farms have been picked at the very peak of their growing season and are of the highest quality. Consider buying organic and biodynamic an investment in your child’s health and in the future of the planet that they will grow up on! (3).
Here's some of my favorite picks for growing bodies:
White Leaf's Apple, Beet, and Sweet Potato blend contains many essential nutrients for growing bodies. Not too sweet, not too tart, the smooth consistency and well-rounded flavor makes it very versatile and beloved by little ones.
- Sweet potatoes are rich in potassium, which helps to regulate blood pressure and muscle function. They’re high in vitamins A, C, potassium, beta carotene, copper, and manganese. Sweet potatoes are mild and sweet tasting, which is appealing to little palates, and gentle on your baby’s digestive system.
- Beets are one of the best food sources of folate, a vitamin that is needed to build DNA and help cells optimally function. Beets' combination of copper and vitamin C also helps increase your baby’s absorption of iron from the plant, which is a key nutrient that littles often don’t get enough of.
White Leaf's Carrot, Sweet Potato + Pea blend is also strong in nutritional value and holds many essential elements for your baby's well rounded diet. This smooth veggie-only blend can be a healthy snack on its own or used as part of a meal for an extra boost in nutrients.
- Peas are a powerhouse food for little ones. They are a great source of vitamin K, a nutrient that works alongside calcium to build healthy bones. They also have antioxidant vitamins A and C, as well as folic acid, fiber, and B vitamins. However, they can be a choking hazard for babies, which is why it is important to puree them and why this blend is so ideal for busy parents.
- Carrots are considered healthy for almost all the organs in the body. Aside from being a great source of fiber, carrots are the single richest vegetable source of alpha- and beta-carotene, which are carotenoids that convert to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is a critical nutrient for eye development and enhances our immune system. It also helps regulate the growth of virtually every cell in the body—an important nutrient to fuel the earlier stages of your baby’s development.