Navigating the world of your little one's first foods can be daunting. Fruits or veggies? Organic or natural? To help, I talked with Kate Geagan, M.S., R.D., author of Go Green Get Lean: Trim Your Waistline with the Ultimate Low-Carbon Footprint Diet, resident nutritionist for Earth's Best, and a mom to a 7-year-old and an 8-year-old. So much has changed in the baby food landscape, Kate says, even since her children were trying their first foods just a few years ago. Here are some of the most common myths seen about Baby's first foods.
Myth: Textures are out.
Nope! “Babies love to explore the consistency of food,” says Darshak Sanghavi, M.D., author of A Map of the Child: A Pediatrician’s Tour of the Body. They mush it with their hands and slather it all over their face, clothes, and high chair—and sometimes a bit of the food they’re playing with even makes it into their mouth, if you give them the time to do so. Playing with food helps your little one learn about and accept different textures. She may not love fuzzy raspberries overnight, but stay positive. Oh, and don’t forget to put a splat mat underneath your high chair to contain the impending mess!
Myth: Vegetables are too bitter for babies to like.
Maybe on the first taste, but not if you’re ready to serve them for the long haul. A penchant for green beans can take up to 20 different tries. If you’re striking out with a veggie, don’t mask its flavor with cheese or puree it into pasta; take a break and try it a few days later. “This isn’t about saying you got your child to eat broccoli,” says Dr. Sanghavi. “It’s about taking time to help her like broccoli.”
Myth: Spices aren’t safe in the first year.
They’re considered safe, but start in moderation, Dr. Sanghavi says. You don’t want to frustrate your baby. The goal is for him to eat what you like to make, including food seasoned with paprika, cumin, and garlic. “Kids around the world grow up eating all kinds of spices,” he says. Not an adventurous diner yourself? Welp, time to get on that, so you can model healthy eating to your babe!
Myth: Avoid all foods that can potentially cause allergies.
It's not necessary to hold back from shellfish, nut butters, or other potential allergens anymore, Kate says. The American Academy of Pediatrics has revised its stance on introducing allergen-causing foods. It's still important to introduce one ingredient at a time though to watch for any sort of allergic reaction that your child might experience.
Myth: My baby's first food must be a vegetable. Then a fruit next, then a meat after that etc...
Many people think that starting a baby with a vegetable will make her more likely to enjoy veggies, but that's not really the case. Kate says: "Take the long view. Why not make her first food iron-rich steak?" (It just needs to be pureed first, of course!)
Myth: "Natural" means healthy.
Packaging that says "natural" or "straight from the farm" are marketing terms, not approved health statements, Kate says. The most important thing to look for on any packaged food product (baby food, or otherwise) is the USDA Organic label. That means that the food is free of any synthetic additives, chemical fertilizers and dyes, among other qualifications. It's also important to note that a "non-GMO" label doesn't mean that it's organic. But an organic label does mean that the product is non-GMO.
"Decide the eating experience you want with your child," Kate says. Sure, pouches can be convenient when you're on the go, but baby food in a jar can be very nutritious too. Just be sure to check the jar's nutrition facts for preservatives and excess amounts of sugar that are better to avoid. Glass jars are also more affordable and environmentally friendly and people have been using them for hundreds of years to safely store food. Or, of course, make your own! It's easier than you think.
Myth: Nutritious baby food can only be purchased in a health foods store.
This just isn't the case anymore! Brands like Earth's Best, Plum Organics and others can now be easily purchased in grocery stores, big box retailers and even online.
Kate says the bottom line is this: "Everyone deserves to be able to feed their child in the best way they can."
Just starting to transition to solids? Follow these tips and your little one will be munching away in no time!