First Foods: Vegetables
The first foods that you give your baby must be easy to digest and unlikely to provoke an allergic reaction. Don't be tempted to add salt or sugar to your baby's food, however bland. Salt may harm your baby's kidneys and sugar will encourage a sweet tooth.
For the first few weeks it is not a good idea to give mixtures of foods other than baby rice mixed with a fruit or vegetable puree. Weaning is a good time to discover if there are any foods that your baby does not tolerate well, and when foods are mixed together it is hard to tell which of them is causing a problem.
In her book Superfoods for Babies and Children (Atria Books), bestselling author Annabel Karmel details which are the best first foods for your baby, and why.
Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, the plant form of vitamin A, and make excellent weaning food, as babies like their naturally sweet taste. Darker, older carrots contain more beta-carotene than baby, new carrots.
Root vegetables make the perfect weaning food because of their naturally sweet taste and smooth texture when pureed. Try carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, rutabaga, and parsnip.
Butternut squash is easily digested and rarely causes allergies; therefore it makes perfect weaning food. It provides an excellent source of beta-carotene.
Parsnips provide a good source of starch and fiber. They also contain the antioxidant vitamins C and E.
Sweet potato comes in two varieties: orange-fleshed and creamy-fleshed. Both have red skins and both are good sources of potassium, vitamin C, and fiber. However, I prefer to use the orange-fleshed variety, which is also an excellent source of beta-carotene. This helps to prevent certain types of cancer and mops up free radicals.
Zucchini is a good source of beta-carotene, but most of the nutrients lie in the skin, so do not peel it.
Broccoli is a true Superfood, as it is a great source of vitamin C and also contains beta-carotene, folic acid, iron, potassium, and anticancer phytonutrients. Broccoli is best steamed or microwaved, as boiling it in water halves its vitamin C content. If your baby isn't keen on the taste, mix it with a sweet-tasting vegetable like sweet potato, rutabaga, or butternut squash.
Potatoes contain vitamin C and are a good source of potassium. They also blend well with most vegetables.
First Foods: Fruits
Apple puree is very easy to digest, so it makes great baby food. The BRAT diet (that is, banana, rice, apples, and toast) is popular with doctors for the relief of diarrhea. Pectin, the soluble fiber in apples, also helps fight against constipation.
Papaya flesh is easy to swallow, so it makes ideal weaning food. It is rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene, and 3 ounces of papaya will provide a young child's daily requirement of vitamin C. Papaya is also high in soluble fiber, which is important for normal bowel function. Papaya also contains enzymes that aid digestion.
Pears are one of the least allergenic foods, so they make great weaning food.
Bananas are full of slow-release sugars, which provide sustained energy. They make perfect portable baby food, as they come in their own easy-to-peel packaging. They are also good for the treatment of diarrhea and constipation.
Apricots are a good source of beta-carotene and also contain fiber. They're also a good source of iron and potassium.
Cantaloupe is the most nutritious variety of melon. It is very sweet and rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene.
Blueberries are rich in vitamin C and also contain beta-carotene. The blue pigment anthocyanin in the skin of the blueberries helps protect us against cancer. Blueberries have the highest antioxidant capacity of all fruits.
Peaches provide a good source of vitamin C, and the soft flesh is easy to digest.
Rice and Meat
Baby rice should be the first cereal you introduce because it does not contain gluten, a protein found in wheat, oats, barley, and rye that can cause food allergy if introduced before 6 months. Baby rice is easily digested and has a milky taste that helps to ease your baby's transition from a purely milk-based diet to solids. It is a good thickener for runny purees like pear, peach, and plum.
Red meat provides the best source of iron for your baby. It is important to introduce iron-rich foods, as a baby's iron reserves inherited from his mother start to run out at 6 months. Breast milk does not contain adequate amounts of iron.
Recipe: Creamy Vegetable Puree
Stronger-tasting vegetables such as parsnip, carrot, and broccoli can be given a more creamy mild taste by combining them with some baby rice and milk.
1 tablespoon baby rice cereal
3 tablespoons your baby's usual milk
1/4 cup vegetable puree
Directions: Mix the baby rice and milk together according to the package instructions and stir into the vegetable puree until thoroughly combined.