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Parenting

10 Best First Baby & Toddler Foods From a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Mom of Three

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Have you been finding yourself deep down in the rabbit hole that is Google, searching “baby first food,” then trying to sift through the flood of suggestions that pop up? Given the amount of misinformation online and the confusion caused by recent shifts in infant feeding guidelines, searching for a trustworthy and realistic baby first food list can be daunting.

Baby first food:

This is partly why I wrote my book, Simple and Safe Baby-Led Weaning: How to Integrate Foods, Master Portion Sizes and Identify Allergies, and why my private practice and consulting company are devoted to helping parents feed their babies and kids with confidence. I’m Malina Malkani, registered dietitian, author, speaker, and the mom of three behind @healthy.mom.healthy.kids. My goal is to reduce as much parental stress around food and feeding as I can, which is why I’m excited to provide this top 10 “baby first foods” list. Each of the foods on the list are also great toddler food ideas and can transition with your baby beyond the early phase of starting complementary foods and into toddlerhood.

Starting solids:

Whether you choose to offer finger foods, purees, or both, you’ll find nutrient-rich options on this list that provide plenty of nourishment in every bite. The goals in these very early food exposures are to establish feeding, encourage exploration, introduce new textures and flavors— and to have fun! When serving finger foods, be sure that the texture is soft enough to squish easily between thumb and forefinger. Your baby may not actually ingest that much, especially at first— and that’s ok! Either breast milk or infant formula will continue to be the main source of nutrients throughout the first year of life. Learning to eat solid foods is a process that can take some time, so focus on maximizing the nutrition in every bite you can while helping to foster some curiosity and positive associations around food and feeding.

Best baby first food list: 

1. Avocado

Avocado is an excellent source of healthy, brain-building fats and also offers fiber and many essential vitamins and minerals. Cut ripe, soft avocado into wedges and either remove the peel, or serve with half the peel still on the wedge for better grip during self-feeding. Mashed or pureed avocado also works well served on a spoon.

2. Banana

Banana is a convenient first finger food for babies because it can be served with a “handle” by slicing in half widthwise, then cutting away the top half of the peel, exposing some flesh. When ripe, the soft texture of banana is ideal. Banana offers plenty of potassium, fiber and magnesium and also works well mashed or pureed and served on a spoon. 

3. Sweet potato

Steamed or baked sweet potato can be served pureed and on a spoon, or offered as a finger food, cut into roasted or baked adult finger-sized strips. Tip – using a crinkle cutter to cut sweet potato fries makes the strips easier for a baby to grasp and self-feed. Sweet potato is high in vitamin A and potassium, and offers vitamins C and E as well as fiber, copper, iron and calcium. Add a dash of ceylon cinnamon and a bit of nutmeg to help introduce your baby to new flavors.

4. Oatmeal

Whether you choose an iron-fortified infant oat cereal or simply make some quick-cook or old-fashioned oats with breast milk and/or formula, oatmeal is a great first food for babies that provides fiber as well as some protein, fat and many important vitamins and minerals including iron and zinc. 

5. Mango

Mangoes are an excellent source of many important nutrients including vitamins A, C and K. A great way to introduce the flavor of mango while soothing sore, teething gums is to cut away the majority of the mango flesh and then hand the large pit to your baby, who can chomp down on the pit and nibble away at what’s left of the fruit.

6. Steak strip

By about 6 months of age, most babies have largely exhausted the iron stores they built up in utero and need to start getting iron from solid foods. Iron is essential for brain and immune health as well as overall growth and development, and beef is an excellent source that can be served ground and cooked into a tender meatball or strip of beef patty. Another option is to serve a finger-length strip of steak cooked medium-well, the goal of which is for the baby to suck out the iron-rich juices rather than actually ingest the meat.

7. Beans 

Beans and legumes are packed with nutrients including plant-based protein, iron, fiber, zinc and choline. During the earlier stages of feeding, mash soft-cooked beans into a bean paste for spoon-feeding or in a bowl for scooping with hands.  

8. Watermelon

Watermelon is an excellent source of vitamin C. Keep in mind as you start offering a wider variety of foods that vitamin C-rich foods including watermelon help the body better absorb plant sources of iron (like beans) when both are served at the same time.  Be sure that the watermelon flesh is soft and ripe and that you have removed any seeds before serving. Serve in long finger length strips for babies using a palmar grasp. 

9. Broccoli

Broccoli is a fantastic source of vitamin C as well as fiber which supports digestive health. When serving, steam broccoli until it’s very tender. The stem makes a great “handle” for your baby to grasp while nibbling on the floret.

10. Lentil or chickpea pasta

Lentil and chickpea pastas are brimming with iron, zinc, plant-based protein, fiber and many other essential nutrients important for a baby’s growth. Larger pasta shapes that are easier for baby to grasp and self-feed include penne, fusilli, farfalle, shell and bowtie. Cook until very tender and serve with olive oil and garlic, tomato sauce, or another flavorful, low-sodium sauce for easier swallowing.

Baby first foods 4-6 months:

When to start giving your baby solids? Health organizations including the AAP, WHO, CDC, and the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines all recommend starting solids at about 6 months of age, once babies are showing the signs of readiness for complementary foods

Best first baby foods:

Once feeding is underway and a baby has been introduced to a few first foods that are not potentially allergenic (such as all of those in our top 10 list above), it’s time to start introducing top allergenic foods (such as peanut and egg) in infant-safe forms to help prevent the development of food allergies (unless a baby has been identified as at high risk for food allergies and the pediatrician or allergist has recommended an alternative plan for allergen introduction). 

Introduce each top allergenic food for the first time either alone or along with foods the baby has had and tolerated previously so that in the event of a reaction, it’s easier to determine which food is responsible. An often forgotten piece of the allergy prevention puzzle is that once top allergenic foods have been introduced and tolerated, it’s important to build them into the baby’s diet 2-3 times per week going forward.

Toddler food ideas:

If this all sounds like a heavy lift and you want someone you trust to do all of the thinking and meal planning for you, check out my Safe & Simple 12-Week Meal Plan. This complete roadmap walks you through the first 90 days of your baby’s solid food feeding journey. It shows you exactly how to introduce each food, provides multiple daily options for balanced baby meals, lays out the timing of top allergen introduction, provides over 30 family- and baby-friendly recipes complete with weekly shopping lists, and provides a plan for keeping top allergens (once introduced) in your baby’s diet early and often. Please use promo code, BOBBIE20, at checkout.

Happy feeding! 

The content on this site is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Discuss any health or feeding concerns with your infant's pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay it based on the content on this page.
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The content on this site is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Discuss any health or feeding concerns with your infant’s pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay it based on the content on this page.

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Meet the Author

Malina Malkani

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Malina Malkani, MS, RDN, CDN, is the mom of three behind the Instagram account, @healthy.mom.healthy.kids and the best-selling author of Simple & Safe Baby-Led Weaning: How to Integrate Foods, Master Portion Sizes, and Identify Allergies. Her mission is to help parents feed their babies and kids with confidence.