There's no shortage of recommendations on the best first foods to introduce to baby, in what order, how often, etc. And it can leave you feeling so overwhelmed! In this post, you'll learn what foods to introduce baby to first and whether you should introduce vegetables before fruits.
Best first foods for babies
There are certainly essential nutrients that you want to focus on - like iron, zinc, and omega 3 fatty acids.
However, allow me to simplify this whole feeding your baby task. The best first foods are whatever you and your family enjoy eating!
When I started solids with my firstborn, all I could think was “what should I feed my baby?” There’s nothing wrong with this. Of course, as a parent/caregiver who cares deeply for the well being of our growing child, we prioritize their needs.
I’m not sure if you can relate, but where that led me was to a land of all kinds of finger-shaped, baked concoctions. Sure, they were loaded with wholesome ingredients, flavorful, easy for my baby to grab and eat, and less messy.
However, these weren’t what my husband and I would normally eat for a meal (as a snack yes!). So I found myself cooking separate meals even though one of the main reasons we decided to do baby led weaning was so that the baby would eat what we ate.
Instead, the first question I want to encourage you to ask is,
"what do I want to eat today?" or "what do I feed my family?"
I know it may sound a bit selfish but when you think about it, the goal is for your baby to explore and learn to appreciate what you and the rest of the family enjoys eating, isn't it?
So instead of following all these "rules" that are out there and making separate meals for your baby, let's introduce them to family meals from the start!
By reframing the question from "what do I feed my baby?" to "what do I feed the family?" you'll naturally be able to introduce your baby to a wide variety of flavors and textures while ensuring that they're getting the essential nutrients they need to grow and thrive. Less stress. Much more enjoyable mealtimes!
So What does this look like in practice?
Perhaps chili is on the menu. Season the dish with whatever herbs and spices you'd normally use (just hold off on the salt). You can serve a small amount in a bowl with a spoon that you can preload and hand to your baby. We absolutely LOVE this one (aff link).
Of course, hands are their best tools so you can let them dive right in, too. To make it easier to eat, you can mash and spread on top of toast or combine with mashed avocado, oatmeal, rice, etc. and shape into balls.
Having said this, I do still bake on the weekends for the baby as muffins, pancakes, cookies, etc. are so great to have in the freezer for a quick meal when I need a break from cooking or if we're dining out/getting take out.
If you're wondering how to adapt family meals so they're the right size and texture for your baby, I've got a 3 month meal plan program that includes weekly grocery lists, a daily game plan, daily cooking demos, videos of my baby eating (to give you peace of mind that everything you're about to serve is safe), and SO much more!
You'll also find plenty of low-sodium, nutritious family meals here as well as in my ecookbooks.
First foods for babies - Fruits or vegetables?
There’s so much confusion and debate over this topic so I thought I’d address it here. Some recommend introducing babies to vegetables first since babies are innately drawn to sweet flavors. Otherwise, they will reject vegetables. Others say that offering well accepted foods, like fruits, first will help in the adjustment to solids better.
There isn’t evidence to show that your baby will not like vegetables if you start with fruits. Both are nutritious and provide nutrients that our babies need to grow.
So to answer that question, you don’t have to introduce foods in any particular order. What you DO want to focus on is introducing your baby to as many flavors and textures as possible. That’s the main goal!
Why? Food preferences are acquired through experience, and research suggests that eating habits established in early childhood are likely to track into adulthood. So let’s provide our babies with food experiences that can help them to accept and enjoy a diverse array of foods!
What we also know is humans from birth tend to prefer sweet, salty, and umami tastes over those that are bitter or sour. However, preferences are “ plastic” at an early age and babies are willing to eat most new foods during what’s referred to as the “window of opportunity” And they will learn to like stronger flavors if they try them early and often.
Let’s take FULL advantage of this period because it won’t stay this way forever.
After the first year, they become more neophobic (afraid to try new foods) or fussy and tend to be more selective about what they will eat.
So what does this look like in practice?
Offer both fruits and vegetables. But do focus on offering bitter and sour tasting foods early and often.
Need step-by-step guidance? By following my meal plan program, you will be able to accomplish just that! One of my top priorities was to ensure that our babies would get to explore a wide variety of vegetables. For instance, green leafy vegetables can be tricky to serve to babies. But have no fear! You’re going to be that rockstar parent/caregiver that incorporates spinach, kale, swiss chard, and collard greens into your baby’s meals in so many fun and delicious ways.
Do you want to minimize picky eating and set a solid foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits?
Check out this 3 month mastering self-feeding program! It’s the closest thing to me being in your kitchen
But what if your baby will ONLY eat the fruit?
I wanted to address this because this was my son. If there was fruit on his plate, that’s all he wanted, and he absolutely refused to eat anything else (I’m talking complete meltdown). I couldn’t expose him to a wide variety of foods as a result.
So I decided that since I'm in charge of WHAT to serve, I’d stop offering fruits temporarily and focus on vegetables, particularly the bitter ones. Around 10 months is when I reintroduced fruits, and I was glad to see that he wasn’t so obsessed with them.
My daughter, on the other hand, is happily exploring all foods regardless of whether or not fruit is present so I’ve been regularly incorporating them into her meals.
Hope this clarifies any confusion or questions you may have had! I share this to empower you to always do what feels best and right for you and your family. Every child is different and you are the best advocate for yours.
Oh, and also note that if your baby makes a funny face, shudders, spits out, etc., it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t like it. It’s surprising to experience new tastes and textures ;). Let’s keep offering and enjoying a wide variety of foods together with our babies!