Learn the top foods to introduce – and the top foods to avoid feeding baby – when starting solids (whether you’re baby-led weaning, introducing purees first, or using a combination of both).
Once your baby shows signs that they’re ready for solids – like good head control, the ability to support themselves when sitting up, and a visible interest in food – it’s an exciting time! They’re ready to embark on a fun adventure and try lots of new flavors and textures.
But you’ll need to make sure the foods you choose are safe for your little one, and provide the nutrients they need for healthy growth. You’ll also need to introduce common allergens, in baby-safe ways, to give your little one the best chance at a healthier future.
Today, we’ll go over the top foods to introduce – and the top foods to avoid – when starting solids. Whether you’re baby-led weaning, introducing purees first, or using a combination of both, this list will help you out.
Foods To Introduce
Based on current guidelines, these are the best foods to feed your little one:
- A variety of fruits and veggies, including:
- Sweet potato
- Common allergens, including:
- Peanut, in baby-safe ways
- Dairy foods (cow’s milk)
- Meats and other proteins
“The time from birth until a child’s second birthday is a critically important period for proper growth and development. It also is key for establishing healthy dietary patterns that may influence the trajectory of eating behaviors and health throughout the life course. During this period, nutrients critical for brain development and growth must be provided in adequate amounts. Children in this age group consume small quantities of foods, so it’s important to make every bite count!” – USDA Dietary Guidelines
Introduce: A variety of fruits and veggies
The new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines for children under two years of age recommend prioritizing a variety of fruits and vegetables in your little one’s diet. Feed them fruits and veggies in all colors, with many different flavors, and many different baby-safe textures.This will encourage them to love, and come back to, these healthy foods for the rest of their life, because lifelong dietary preferences are formed during your little one’s first years. We’ve listed some of our favorite fruits and veggies for babies below.
Introduce: Sweet potato
Sweet potatoes are packed with potassium, beta carotene, vitamin C, and fiber. So, they support immune system health, heart health, bone health, muscle health, eye health and more. Plus, they’re already soft in texture, and they’re easy to digest, so they’re an awesome first food. And babies love their yummy sweet taste!
They’re easy to serve pureed or mashed, and pair well with lots of different foods. And if you’re doing baby-led weaning, they’re great in long strips. We love sweet potatoes so much that we’ve featured them in our Sweet Potato Carrot Organic Baby Oatmeal.
Avocados are truly a superfood. They contain multiple B vitamins, along with vitamins C, E, and K. They also supply fiber, magnesium, and potassium, plus lots of proteins and healthy fats. All of these nutrients help support healthy growth and development throughout baby’s body, including in the brain, immune system, bones, muscles, heart, blood, skin, and eyes.
Younger babies can enjoy pureed or mashed avocado right after you’ve peeled it and removed the pit. Older babies can eat it chopped up in small pieces. And for baby-led weaning, babies will enjoy it in long strips. No matter which way you serve them, avocados are awesome alongside sweet potatoes and chicken.
Bananas are known for their potassium. But they also contain several more nutrients, including manganese, vitamin C, carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamin B6. Plus, they’ve got a fun taste your little one will go bananas over! They help baby’s body process proteins and carbohydrates, and support a healthy immune system. They also encourage healthy bones and a healthy brain, and help give baby’s body the energy it needs.
Bananas taste great when paired with almost any other fruit, whether they’re pureed, mashed, or cut up. And don’t forget about adding them into fruit smoothies! We’ve mixed bananas into our Banana Apple Organic Baby Oatmeal, so baby can enjoy the health benefits of bananas while you feed them 9 top allergens.
Blueberries are packed with antioxidants that help fight off illnesses. Plus, potassium, vitamins A and C, and manganese support the brain, bones, immune system, heart, and more. And fiber makes them easy for baby to digest.
Blueberries are a well-loved baby smoothie, puree, and mash ingredient. We recommend blending, pureeing, or mashing them with other berries, a banana, a peach, or a mango. They even work well with sweet potato and avocado!
Remember: If you aren’t blending, pureeing or mashing blueberries, you’ll need to cut them in half or in quarters before you give them to baby. Whole blueberries are a dangerous choking hazard because they are small and round.
Mangos are packed with lots of vitamins and minerals, and the antioxidants inside help defend baby’s body against illnesses. They’ve also got potassium and magnesium, which help strengthen baby’s bones, muscles, heart, and immune system.
A soft texture and a fun tropical flavor make mangos an awesome first food. They’re a classic smoothie and puree ingredient, and you can cut them into strips and serve them right away for baby-led weaning.
Introduce: Peanut, in baby-safe ways
In their new set of guidelines for introducing allergens to babies and young children, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) recommends, “peanut… should be introduced around 6 months of life, but not before 4 months.”
To set baby up for a healthier future of food freedom, it’s vital to introduce peanut early – starting between 4 and 6 months of age. You’ll also need to feed baby peanut consistently for the healthiest outcomes, as recent studies and medical guidelines have shown.
But many forms of peanut pose choking hazards, and are unsafe for your little one. One of the best baby-safe forms of peanut is peanut powder (also called peanut flour). With peanut powder, the peanuts are ground up very finely, so they won’t pose a choking hazard.
“Peanut-containing products, such as powders/flours… have… been used as safe forms of peanut for infants.” – AAAAI Guidelines
You could also water down smooth peanut butter, as another safe way to feed baby peanut.
The AAAAI guidelines also recommend that “egg should be introduced around 6 months of life, but not before 4 months.” And just like with peanut, recent studies and medical guidelines have shown that consistently introducing egg is vital for promoting food freedom. Plus, eggs are a great protein source!
To keep baby safe, make sure any egg you feed them is cooked well, and that all the shells are removed. You can mix cooked egg powder with baby’s food, or bake egg into healthy baked goods (just avoid adding sugars). You could also try giving baby scrambled egg pieces, but keep in mind that many babies have trouble eating scrambled eggs.
Ready. Set. Food! makes it easy to introduce peanut, egg, and milk to any baby, as early as 4 months of age. Our Stage 1 and Stage 2 Mix-Ins safely mix with a bottle of breastmilk or formula. So, you can introduce allergens as early as 4 months of age, even before your baby is ready for solids. Plus, they’re 100% organic and contain no added sugar.
Introduce: Dairy foods
In addition to peanut and egg, the AAAAI guidelines also recommend that “Other allergens should be introduced around [4-6 months of age].” These guidelines also emphasize to parents and caregivers, “Do not deliberately delay the introduction of other potentially allergenic... foods."
Milk is another important allergen to introduce early and often, since it’s one of the top three allergens affecting young children (alongside peanut and egg). In addition to this, milk is a good source of calcium, which helps promote strong bones and teeth.
Although babies under the age of 1 shouldn’t be given milk to drink, they need to eat dairy foods in their first year. These include yogurt, shredded cheese, and milk – or milk powder – that’s mixed into foods.
Introduce: Other allergens
There are several more allergens that you should start introducing in baby’s first year, because they are responsible for the most common food allergies in children. These include finely ground tree nuts (like almond, cashews, and walnuts), wheat, soy, and sesame.
Baby should also be introduced to healthy whole grains. Although there are lots of options, oatmeal’s a clear winner, as oatmeal is one of the most nutrient-packed foods you can give your baby. It’s filled with protein, iron, fiber, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Plus, it also contains magnesium, B vitamins, calcium, copper, zinc, phosphorus, and selenium.
With all of these nutrients, oatmeal helps with healthy brain development, promotes growth, strengthens the immune system, builds bones and muscles, and encourages a healthy heart . (And there are even more benefits of oatmeal for babies – learn about all of them here.)
The possibilities are endless with oatmeal – it’s like a blank canvas. Add in any pureed or chopped fruits you choose. Or, mix it up and try adding some veggies!
Ready. Set. Food! Organic Baby Oatmeal gives baby all the benefits of oatmeal, while introducing baby to 9 top allergens (peanut, egg, milk, almond, cashew, walnut, wheat, soy, and sesame). It’s an easy way to follow recent medical guidelines that recommend early, frequent exposure to these allergens. Plus, it contains double the protein of other packaged baby oatmeal, with no added sugar.
To complete a nutritious diet, the USDA guidelines recommend that baby should be introduced to meat and fish as sources of protein. Crumbles of ground beef, chicken, or turkey, or small chicken pieces, are great for baby-led weaning. You can also give baby small pieces of low-mercury flaked fish, like salmon and trout, with bones carefully removed. If you’re going the puree route, puree beef, turkey, or chicken with a variety of veggies.
If you follow a plant-based diet and you’ve chosen not to feed baby meat, feed baby pureed or mashed beans as a leading source of protein instead. In fact, beans are great for all babies, regardless of your diet choice – they’re considered a superfood, as they contain lots of other nutrients in addition to protein.
Foods To Avoid
These foods are unsafe for babies, so avoid feeding them to your little one:
- Uncut round foods
- Hard fruit and veggie pieces
- Hot dogs
- Whole nuts
- Unmodified nut butters
- Foods with added sugar
- Hard snacks
- Dried fruits
Never feed honey to babies under 1 year of age. Honey contains bacteria that can cause babies to develop botulism, a rare but serious illness. Babies are vulnerable to botulism because their digestive systems aren't mature enough to handle the bacteria. Their digestive systems “wake up” the dormant bacteria in the honey, making it able to produce the toxin that causes botulism.
Avoid: Uncut round foods
Round foods are a major choking hazard that can easily get lodged in baby’s throat. Avoid feeding baby these and other round foods when they’re uncut:
- Cherry tomatoes
Fortunately, there are ways to remove the major choking hazard and safely introduce these foods. How to make these foods safe for baby? Cut the fruits and veggies into quarters. Crumble up meatballs. And if you feed baby cherries, remove the pits and stems before cutting them into quarters.
Avoid: Hard fruit and veggie pieces
Carrots, apples, celery, green beans, and broccoli are too hard for babies to handle when raw. All of these foods, and other hard fruits and veggies, must be cooked and softened before you feed them to baby.
Avoid: Hot dogs
Hot dogs are one of the most dangerous foods for babies. If a child bites off a piece, it’s large and round – it could get stuck in their throat and block their airway. And even if you cut a hot dog into very small pieces, the skin could still pose a choking risk. Keep hot dogs away from children under 4 years of age.
Avoid: Whole nuts
Although it’s super important to introduce peanuts and tree nuts, stay away from whole nuts when feeding your little one. Whole nuts are choking hazards, and are unsafe for kids under the age of 4.
Chunky nut butters are also unsafe for children under 4 years old, because they contain hard nut pieces.
Avoid: Unmodified nut butters
Unmodified smooth nut butter (that isn’t watered down) is too lumpy for babies to handle, and is a choking hazard. It’s unsafe to give children under age 4. So, don’t feed baby peanut butter or tree nut butter straight from the jar.
If you’d like to use smooth peanut butter to introduce peanut, you’ll need to water it down and thin it first. The same goes for smooth tree nut butters – always water them down before feeding them to baby.
Avoid: Foods with added sugar
According to the latest dietary guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), babies and toddlers under 2 years of age shouldn’t eat any foods with added sugar. This is because young children consume limited amounts of food, but need lots of nutrients for growth. So, they have no room in their diet for added sugars.
Another problem with added sugar is that babies and toddlers might prefer unhealthy, overly sweet foods later in life if they eat sugar-laden foods in their first years.
Avoid: Hard snacks
Snacks like chips and pretzels are too hard for your baby to safely eat. And popcorn could have unpopped kernels inside, which are a serious choking hazard. Plus, snacks like these tend to be salty, and baby doesn’t need any extra sodium.
Avoid: Dried fruits
Dried fruits like raisins are very sticky and hard for babies to chew. So, they could easily get stuck in babies’ and younger toddlers’ throats. Avoid feeding them to your little one until they’re at least 18 months old.