There are lots of healthy, baby-friendly foods out there, but these 10 recommended by doctors and nutritionists alike stand out from the pack. From vitamin-rich fruits and veggies to meats and beans loaded with protein, these superfoods are full of essential nutrients, reasonably priced, easy to prepare, and delicious.
Many are also favorite first foods. Before introducing solids, talk to the pediatrician about your baby’s readiness for solids, and which foods to introduce and when. Then introduce foods one at a time, waiting at least three days after each new food to watch for any allergic reaction.
BabyCenter moms are all about avocado as a first food. This buttery fruit-vegetable is rich in healthy unsaturated fats that help boost brain development. In fact, the fat composition of avocados is somewhat similar to that of breast milk.
Serving ideas: Mash avocado with a fork, or make baby guacamole.
Known as a good source of potassium, this grab-and-go fruit also contains vitamins B6 and C, calcium, and iron.
Serving ideas: Make banana and mango puree. Or, for your little one’s first smoothie, puree banana and peach chunks with whole-milk yogurt.
Blueberries are bursting with antioxidants. The deep, brilliant blue of these berries comes from flavonoids that benefit your baby’s eyes, brain, and even urinary tract.
Serving ideas: Blend or mash blueberries well and swirl a spoonful of the juicy purple puree into yogurt, or top silky coconut milk rice pudding with blueberry compote.
This cruciferous vegetable contains fiber, folate, and calcium, and may even help ward off cancer. Introduce your baby to broccoli’s bold flavor early, and you’ll be expanding his tastes and encouraging a lifelong love of green vegetables.
Steam until soft, cut into pieces small enough for your child to eat safely, and then chill. Steaming takes the bite out of broccoli, and some babies prefer the texture and taste when it’s cold.
Beans and other legumes pack lots of lean protein and fiber. But unlike larger beans, little lentils simmer into a pleasing mush just right for baby bites. They’re also one of the cheapest healthy foods you can buy.
Lack of iron can cause anemia. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends meat as a first food because it’s such a great source of protein, zinc, and iron, especially red meat and dark poultry meat. Plus babies absorb iron more easily from meat than from iron-fortified cereals, another common first food.
Serving ideas: If your baby is new to solids, try our easy turkey or chicken puree recipe. As she gets older, introduce new flavors with chicken curry with green beans and zucchini or shepherd’s pie.
Whether you call them “prunes” or “dried plums,” these humble fruits don’t sound glamorous – but they’re soft, sweet, and full of fiber. Your baby may suffer from constipation when switching to solids, as it’s a big change for her system. Add pureed prunes to her diet to aid digestion and keep things moving.
Serve pureed prunes alone or mixed with other foods, such as oatmeal, cereal, or applesauce, for a naturally sweet treat.
Sweet potatoes are one of the more popular first foods for babies, who tend to like both their sweetness and texture. These colorful root vegetables are packed with beta-carotene, vitamin C, and minerals, including iron and copper.
Serving ideas: Serve sweet potato puree alone or swirled into pureed chicken or turkey.
Orange- or yellow-fleshed hard winter squashes such as butternut, acorn, and pumpkin boast many benefits, one of which is they’re exceptionally rich in beta-carotene, recognized for being great for eyes. Squash is also an excellent source of vitamin C. Natural sweetness and a creamy texture add to the appeal of winter varieties.
Serving ideas: Roast a winter squash like butternut, scoop out the flesh, and puree it for an easy first food. As your baby gets older, introduce new flavors and textures with dishes like smashed chickpea and butternut chili.
Creamy yogurt is rich in calcium and vitamin D, necessary for healthy bones and teeth. Your baby can have it at 4 to 6 months, long before he’ll be ready for cow’s milk.
Opt for plain yogurt with no added sugar. Also look for a brand with the most live cultures, which help regulate the good bacteria in your baby’s digestive tract. Make sure you pick up whole-milk yogurt – babies need the calories from fat.
Serving ideas: Yogurt is fine on its own, or swirl in pureed berries or other fresh fruit, applesauce, or mashed avocado.
What About Allergens?
Unfortunately, food allergies are on the rise. In fact, according to a new report, emergency room visits for anaphylaxis (an acute allergic reaction) more than doubled in children from 2010 to 2016. Those are some scary statistics when you’re thinking about what to feed your little one. The good news? There’s growing evidence that when babies are introduced to common allergens before their first birthday, they are less likely to develop allergies.
The importance of early and frequent allergen introduction starting at 6 months
As noted above, new studies about food allergy prevention show you can lower your child’s risk of developing a food allergy by up to 80 percent through early and sustained allergen introduction. What qualifies as early? Research shows that pregnant moms who eat nuts are less likely to have babies with nut allergies. And further research shows that once baby is ready to eat solid food around 4-6 months children at high risk of developing a peanut allergy were far less likely to develop an allergy when introduced to peanuts before they turned 12 months.
The key to prevention is not only dependent on timing, but also what you’re feeding baby and how often. Start with peanut, egg, and dairy foods like cheese or yogurt (don’t give baby cow’s milk to drink until they’re 12 months old), since they represent over 80 percent of the most common childhood food allergies. If you’re not sure how to get started, check out companies like Ready, Set, Food that have scientifically proven programs to help parents gently and slowly introduce known allergens.
A Final Word on the Best First Foods for Baby
Babies thrive by eating solids from both the plant and animal kingdom. By nourishing your little one with nutrient-dense foods, they will have brighter minds and moods, physical strength, healthy immune systems, and protective microbiomes. Getting things off to a great start now, with these best first foods for baby, will help ensure lifelong health.