Healthy Eating at Every Age
Best Solid Foods at 6 to 9 Months
• Cooked and puréed vegetables such as carrots, green beans, green peas, pumpkin, spinach, zucchini and summer and winter squash
• Cooked and puréed fruits such as applesauce, apricots, peaches, pears, prunes and raisins
• Raw and mashed fruits such as avocados, bananas, melons and papayas
• Soft-cooked whole grains such as iron-fortified brown rice cereal, oats and pearled barley
• Protein foods such as plain full-fat yogurt or small amounts of tahini (sesame seed butter—always thin and mix seed butters with other foods to prevent choking)
Note: At 6 to 7 months, choose one per day; 8 to 9 months, choose two per day, including cooked and puréed lentils and split peas and, if not allergic, egg yolk, hard cooked and mashed, or cooked into hot cereal, not more than three times a week, as well as medium, soft or silken plain tofu mashed (1 to 2 tablespoons), also not more than three times a week.
Tip: When introducing a baby to new foods, include as many vegetables as fruits to help train tiny taste buds to enjoy the bitter, sour and astringent flavors, as well as the sweet ones.
Best Foods at 9 to 12 Months
• Add new cooked and puréed vegetables such as beets, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and eggplant
• Add new raw and mashed fruits such as kiwis and mangos
• Add soft-cooked whole grains such as amaranth, millet and quinoa
• Include cooked and minced whole grain pastas such as brown rice, quinoa and spelt
• Add more proteins, such as ground beef, lamb, chicken and turkey; introduce with caution in case of allergies: mild, soft cheeses (not raw) such as cottage, ricotta, cheddar and provolone; beans such as cannellini, navy, great northern (add a small amount of kombu or epazote to cooking water to increase digestibility of beans)
Tip: Baby’s pincer grip develops between 9 and 12 months, so retain small soft pieces of food in their purées to pick out with small fingers.
Best Foods at 12 to 18 Months
• Expand types of proteins to encompass fish such as wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, tilapia, cod (one serving per month to minimize ocean toxins), skipjack or chunk light canned tuna (no-sodium, no more than one serving per week)
• Include milk and whole eggs
• Add healthy fats such as small amounts of butter, ghee, coconut oil, chopped olives and coconut milk
Tip: At this age youngsters feel a new adventurousness about foods, putting all manner of things into their mouths. Take advantage of this window by offering up a broad range of different food experiences.
Best Foods at 18 to 36 Months
• From this point on, children can eat all types of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and other types of protein foods
• Families at risk for food allergies can cautiously introduce allergenic foods such as fish, seafood, peanuts or tree nuts after 36 months, while monitoring their reception
Tip: Many toddlers go through periods of finicky responses to foods. Be patient, relax and trust that over the course of a week, rather than any single meal or day, children are likely getting their basic nutritional needs met.