The following is a guest post from Beth Martin. Beth is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) and the owner of Small Bites Wellness in Seattle, Washington. She is passionate about whole food nutrition for the whole family and believes that ANY change you make in the pursuit of your health, or your child’s health, is worthy. Health is a journey, not a destination. Thank you Beth, for this great information!
Weeding through the plethora of information on first foods is overwhelming. Rather than worry about or tie yourself to a particular method, I recommend focusing on two things for first foods: Nutrient dense foods to support growth and development, and foods that are appropriate for a developing digestive system.
Infants have specific nutrient requirements to support their rapid growth and development. For example, fat and cholesterol are needed to support brain and cell membrane development, and fat is also needed to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. Another example is an infant’s need for adequate iron once needs exceed what is provided by breastmilk and storage reserves.
I’m a big believer that nutrient requirements can be met through complementary whole foods, (in addition to breastmilk or formula) which are nutrient dense and are easily digested and absorbed by a baby who is ready for solids.
If you are unsure about about readiness for solids, please review these signs of readiness. Forcing solids on an infant who is not ready for them is stressful, and proper digestion only happens when we are in a relaxed, parasympathetic state, babies included.
Here are 8 of my favorite first foods.
Soft-boiled egg yolks have choline and cholesterol to support brain development, and when they are from pasture-raised poultry they are a great source of vitamins A and D, iron, and folic acid. Soft-boiling preserves enzymes important for digestion, and the texture is easier for babies than hard-boiled yolk. Note: I recommend skipping egg whites at first, as they can be allergenic.
Banana is a good first fruit as it’s one of a few fruits that contain amylase, which is needed for starch breakdown (infants don’t have adult levels of amylase until around 16 months).
Liver is a nutrient powerhouse, with choline and cholesterol for the brain, ample amounts of crucial minerals like iron, zinc, and copper, and B vitamins that aren’t found in many foods. Look for organic or pasture raised poultry liver (chicken is great and easy to find). Serve pureed (simmered in bone broth and puree) or made into a pate.
Root vegetables are a great way to introduce vegetables into a baby’s diet. To help aid in digestion, vegetables should be well cooked. For an extra nutrient punch, simmer in bone broth, so that the vegetables absorb nutrients from the broth. Make sure to serve with fat (coconut oil or butter are both great options), to ensure that the fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed during digestion.
Like egg yolk and liver, fish eggs are great for developing brains (Omega 3 fatty acids) and full of vitamins (A, D, and K2) and minerals (zinc, selenium, and iodine). Buy fresh or frozen, but skip the shelf-stable caviar that include preservatives. Larger eggs, like salmon roe, are a fun finger food, and smaller eggs can be mixed with other foods or fed by spoon.
Avocado is full of fat (more brain food!), and is also a source of folate and iron. If a mashed avocado is too much for baby, try mixing with breastmilk or formula to thin a little.
Coconut milk is high in lauric acid, which happens to be one of the saturated fats available in breastmilk. Like ghee and butter, coconut milk is a great fat for mixing with pureed vegetables so that fat soluble vitamins are absorbed.
Sauerkraut is a probiotic food, a source of good bacteria that aids in gut health. It’s also a great source of Vitamin C, which, when paired with a non-heme (non-meat) iron source, helps to increases the amount of iron that is absorbed. Make sure to only buy refrigerated sauerkraut; shelf-stable options are not living foods and, therefore, not a source of good bacteria.
See Also: “Two Big Reasons to Skip Rice Cereal”