Nutritious food ideas for babies

Bupa  Dietitian Gemma Cosgriff shares some nutritious recipes to help introduce your baby to solids.

There’s conflicting advice about the most appropriate time to introduce solids to infants, but the general consensus is that they should start at about six months. By this stage their digestive system, swallowing ability and tongue control are on the road to maturity.

What comes first?

Guidelines suggest that babies should begin their food journey with rice cereal, which can be mixed with breast milk and is often iron-enriched. But you could also try pumpkin puree or another simple mash, with, or in the place of rice cereal.
Iron is the magic word when it comes to your baby’s first solids. Nature provides infants with stores of iron when they’re born, but the levels dwindle at about six months, so introduce iron-rich fruit and vegetables, such as leafy vegetables prepared in a way that’s easy to eat. 

Don’t forget fruit and veg that’s rich in vitamin C – this helps the body to absorb iron. At around eight months, you can also introduce cooked eggs, red meat, chicken and fish. 
By the way, there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that introducing foods in a particular order, or delaying the introduction of allergenic foods like eggs and nuts, will reduce the risk of your baby developing an allergy. 

Texture tips

Nutrition, of course, is an important component of introducing solid foods, but it’s also important that your baby learns to manage different textures and consistencies, and become familiar with different smells and flavours. Some parents begin with purees, move on to rough mashes, and then loose, flaky fish and soft bread, finally through to harder, chewier textures when baby’s teeth come through.

Others choose to provide solid food in the form it would take on the parents’ plate and let the baby gnaw away at it. However to avoid choking it’s important grate, cook or mash all hard fruits or vegetables and it’s recommended that you do not give your baby food that has small hard pieces like raw apple, carrot or whole nuts..

Cooking technique

Steaming provides the best chance for ingredients to hang onto their nutritional content, so where possible steam your baby’s foods. It can be hard work preparing and cooking separate meals, so it’s fine to use ingredients of what you’re cooking for everyone else.

Foods to avoid

There are a few obvious foods to avoid. Don’t give honey to children under 12 months because of the risk of botulism. Cow’s milk (as a main drink) and fruit juice shouldn’t be given to babies under 12 months of age, and avoid nutrient-poor, processed, ‘sometimes’ foods with high levels of saturated fat, added sugars and/or salt.
baby with food on highchair

Recipe ideas

Rice cereal, apple and prune puree

When pureeing, leave on the skin of fruits and vegetables; it’s a great source of fibre for regular bowel habits. 
2 apples, cored and diced
1½ cups water
3 prunes, stones removed
⅓ cup iron-fortified rice cereal
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Bring apples and water to boil. After 5 minutes add prunes, rice cereal and cinnamon, and continue to boil for a further 5 minutes or until cereal is soft. Puree to desired consistency. Serve.

Pumpkin, baked bean and cheese mash

½ cup pumpkin, diced and steamed
½ cup salt-reduced baked beans
2 tablespoons cheddar cheese
Mash steamed pumpkin, baked beans and cheese together to a rough consistency. Serve.

Tuna, pea and cheesy pasta

Pasta is a soft-food option, which offers new textures to hold, smell and taste. Opt for bow-pasta or penne so that it can be held by your baby. A healthy pasta dish for the whole family also means that you won’t have to make a separate meal for bub.
2 cups water
½ cup cooked pasta
2 tablespoons frozen peas
1 small can of tuna in spring water, drained
¼ cup tasty cheese
Cook pasta and peas in boiling water until soft, then drain. Add tuna and cheese to pasta and allow cheese to melt. Serve.    
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