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.