Till 6 months of age it is advised to keep the baby on breast feed only. Mother’s milk has all required nutrients which help the baby grow healthy and strong and also protects from infections. It has antibodies which help babies to fight off viruses and bacteria. It also makes the baby’s immune system strong. Mothers always have a question in mind when to start baby food? After completing 6 months your infant’s body needs more nutrition for proper growth and development. This is the time to introduce solids. It is a slow and careful transition to solids. As a baby’s digestive system is still not mature enough, you have to keep a close check on food items you are preparing for him/her. The best way to start solids is with pureed and mashed foods. Each food that you are introducing has to have some nutritional purpose as you are building the foundation for a healthy body.
When to start baby food?
Baby is now ready to start solids. Parents would notice baby showing more interest in what others are eating than his/her own milk bottle. This signals their desire and readiness to start trying more flavours. For babies just beginning to eat, it’s important to introduce all sorts of veggies and fruits. This is the time when they are slowly going off breast feed and need solid food to build immunity and support growth of brain, bones, eye-vision and overall body. Every food chosen has to have a nutritional purpose. Please keep this in mind that even a single junk food can prove to be a wasted opportunity, since the opportunity to feed is limited in babies. (How does sugar impact kids bones?)
Baby’s first foods:
Banana: Bananas are loaded with potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, folate, niacin and vitamin B6. They are also a rich source of prebiotic fiber that helps build a healthy digestive system. Banana is good for bones, improves brain power and cures constipation issues too. It is one of the best baby’s first foods to introduce. As it is sweet and creamy, babies also enjoy eating it. Initially you can start with giving half a small mashed banana. Later, a small banana per day is ideal for a kid. (Two fruits that must be given to small kids)
- Mung bean/ Moong Dal: Mung bean is the safest and one of the best baby solid foods to start with. It is a great source of protein, iron, fiber, vitamins and minerals as well as probiotics. All of these nutrients are essential in babies growing years. It is an outstanding prebiotic and has been used in Ayurveda for over 1000 years to make medicines for digestion. It has resistant starch which helps in digestion. Begin with cooked mung bean soup and slowly transition to soft cooked mung bean porridge. Always remember to soak and sprout the bean since it makes it easy for a baby to digest. You may use any- hulled mung bean or those with green covering. (Easy recipe to make wraps with hidden veggies)
- Sweet Potato: Sweet potatoes have nutrients that make it the preferred choice for baby solid food. Being rich in fiber, it can help prevent constipation and maintain a healthy digestive tract. It is loaded with beta-carotene which is converted into vitamin A. It should be included in every baby’s diet plan as vitamin A can be beneficial for your baby’s eye health. It also has a good amount of vitamin C and vitamin E which helps in strengthening the immune system. You can feed it in the form of puree as it is easier for them to digest. (Easy recipe of healthy fries that kids love)
- Carrot: Carrots are good baby solid food to start due to its smooth texture, sweet taste and nutritional values. It is a good source of vitamin A which is important for eye health, vitamin B6 which can provide the best skin, hairs and helps in better liver functioning. It is also rich in fiber thus, helps to prevent constipation in babies. Finely chop or grate carrot and boil it. Retain the water to make puree or to mash it. (How to retain Vitamin A in food?)
- Apple: Apple is one of the safest and full of nutritious solid food for babies to start with. Babies love its sweet flavour. It is a rich source of both soluble and insoluble fiber thus easily gets digested by babies. As it is full of carbohydrates, it provides energy to the baby to stay active. Apple skin contains quercetin, a type of plant pigment flavonoid that helps to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. It is considered as one of the baby’s first foods. You can introduce apples in puree form to your baby. (How does apple cider vinegar help with hair?)
- Broccoli: Broccoli has numerous health benefits. It is a powerhouse of nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6 and folate. It also has minerals including zinc and iron. It provides a strong boost to strengthen the baby’s immune system. Vitamin A helps to promote eye health. As a rich source of iron it prevents anaemia by increasing haemoglobin level in blood. Broccoli contains fiber which helps to fix any kind of digestive disorder and constipation. (How to keep the eyes of a child healthy?)
- Potato: It is considered as one of the safest foods to introduce as a baby’s first food. It is a good source of carbohydrates and provides energy to your growing baby. Vitamin C, starch and various enzymes in it nourishes baby’s skin. It also helps babies to gain healthy weight. Phosphorus in it contributes to building strong bones. It contains resistant starch which boosts healthy gut bacteria growth and promotes digestive health. Steam the potato or boil it and retain the water. The skin of potato has nutritious fiber which is great for digestion and gut health.
Pear: Pear is a nourishing food that can add more nutritional value to your baby’s diet. It is a good source of dietary fiber. It provides essential nutrients as it is a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium. It contains pectin, a water soluble fiber and sorbitol, a compound that retains water in the large intestine, which helps to prevent constipation and promotes bowel movements by loosening the hard stool. Pear with peel contains polyphenols, a bioactive compound that boosts immunity by combating free radicals. You can start with peeled and cooked puree or mashed ones as baby solid food.
- Pumpkin seeds: You can safely introduce pumpkin seeds to your baby after crossing 6 months of age. It has all essential vitamins and minerals needed for proper development in babies. It is rich in calcium and magnesium which helps in building strong bones and teeth. Phosphorus in it promotes brain functioning, helps in metabolism and improves in functioning of muscles too. As an excellent source of fiber, it supports digestive health and regulates baby’s bowel movement. Decent amount of vitamin C in it boosts immunity and protects the baby against cold and flu. Tryptophan in it produces amino acid serotonin that helps induce calmness and makes your baby relax and sleep better. (Easy spreads made of seeds and nuts for kids)
Finger millet (Ragi): Ragi is one of the super foods with numerous health benefits. It is the richest source of calcium and vitamin D. Both of these nutrients are vital for proper development of bones and teeth in babies. Calcium in it easily get absorbed by the body and beneficial for babies during the teething phase. It also prevents malnutrition in babies as it has high protein content. Ragi is loaded with a high level of dietary fiber thus, preventing constipation. Insoluble fiber in it promotes easy digestion of foods in babies. While preparing ragi porridge for babies, dry roast it thoroughly for at least 10 minutes. (Foods to keep the bones of a child strong?)
Sorgam (Jowar): Sorghum can provide nutrition to fulfil baby’s growing development requirements. It is a gluten free grain and a super healthy option for babies. Sorghum is rich in veriety of nutrients including magnesium that helps in bone formation, b vitamins that play essential role in metabolism and skin and hair health. This grain is great source of protein and contributes to good health in all manners.
Barnyard millets (Sanwa rice): Millet is the most nutritious food to start after the baby completes 6 months. It is a rich source of dietary fiber including both soluble and insoluble fiber. It prevents constipation, cramps, bloating and excess gas issues in babies. It is also a great source of digestible protein which makes it light food to digest.
Oats: Oats are rich in many essential nutrients. It has a large amount of proteins, carbohydrates, dietary fibers, vitamins and minerals. Minerals like calcium and phosphorus in it helps in building strong bones, magnesium generates energy and promotes bone and dental health, potassium and sodium in it maintain the balance of electrolyte in the baby’s body and zinc boosts brain development. It is an excellent source of fiber which enhances gut health. (Best immunity building foods for kids)
Tapioca: It is considered as one of the excellent foods for babies to start with. It has numerous health benefits. It is loaded with calcium, iron, potassium, and vitamin K which are key minerals for baby’s bone development. It also helps to cure digestive ailments including indigestion, bloating and constipation. Starch in it is packed with carbohydrates which provide energy to the baby throughout the day and helps to gain weight. It is also a good source of protein thus aids muscle development by strengthening them. It tops in one of the best baby’s first food categories.
Adding herbs to baby food:
Depending on the mother’s feed, babies often get introduced to basic properties and a little bit of a taste of variety of herbs before starting solids. Mother’s diet influences the flavour of breast milk too. Like this before starting a solid baby has ideas of some flavours. As it is not advisable to add salt and sugar in baby’s food, a pinch of cinnamon powder in porridge, a small chopped clove of garlic in veggies puree or pinch of cumin powder in mashed sweet potatoes can work well to let the baby explore the tastes. It will also encourage baby to try different foods with different flavours and set the foundation of healthy eating habits. Packed with vitamins and minerals, these herbs also have some nutritional purpose.
Cinnamon: This herb has anti- bacterial and antifungal properties. It has antioxidants which reduces inflammation. As it has prebiotics properties too, it relieves digestive disorders and may improve gut health. (How to make cinnamon candies for kids?)
Nutmeg: It is rich in many important B- complex vitamins. Vitamin A, Vitamin C, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin and antioxidants like beta-carotene. It is also a great source of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc which are essential for good health. Nutmeg has antibacterial properties that help in maintaining oral health. I
Cumin: Studies have shown that cumin promotes digestion by increasing pancreatic enzymes production. Cumin also has anti-diarrheal effects. Adding cumin powder in baby’s food can boost up the immature digestive system to break down food easily. It also helps in developing a strong immune system. It has a compound cuminaldehyde which directly kills disease causing bacteria and fungi. It is the best thing to add in your baby’s meal.
Mint: It is the best herb to add to your baby’s meal. It not only has a good taste but much other nutritional and medicinal value too. It helps in aiding tummy trouble and stomach cramping. It is a calming herb that helps to soothe upset stomach or digestive issues. (Summer drinks for kids hydration)
Turmeric: You can introduce turmeric to baby as soon as he starts eating solids. It has some bio-active compounds such as curcumin and curcuminoids that can boost baby’s immune system. It is related with effective pain management . In Ayurveda it is mentioned that turmeric has anti- inflammatory properties and it provides relief in respiratory issues like cough. Consumption of turmeric support digestive health by stimulating bile acid production. Adding small amount of turmeric in purees, soups and dals can benefit over all health. (Easy to feed turmeric balls during cold and flu)
Carom seeds: It has powerful anti bacterial and anti fungal properties. Carom seed extract help to prevent and treat gas and indigestion. It is a common medication used to treat cough in India. You can start giving your baby little bit carom seed water after starting solids.
Mixed meals for baby:
When your baby starts eating individual food, it’s time to offer a mix of two foods. It is the stage when you know that the foods you have started are safe for the baby and he/ she is not allergic to any of them. Colour, texture and taste are the most important thing to be taking care of while preparing meals for your babies. Aim for variety as it will help babies to develop eating habits. Always try to prepare fresh meals for babies. Some basic recipes are easy to make and best to introduce as meals. (Foods and remedies that will help in teething)
- Rice-Mung bean/ Moong Dal porridge: It is the best meal you can make for your baby. Full of nutrition and easy to digest, this rice and mung bean combination is liked by babies too. To increase its nutritional value you can gradually add boiled mashed veggies to it like carrots, finely chopped spinach or any from below. It will help babies to develop taste and get other nutrients from vegetables. Always sprout the beans or any lentil to make it easy for the baby to digest.
- Oats porridge (Daliya): It is an easy meal for you to prepare with lots of health benefits. It can be cooked like porridge. You can add any legume like Mung bean or soy bean or puree of veggies from below along with a little bit of cumin powder to it to add flavour. It can be cooked with little milk too and served with a puree of fruits mentioned above. Adding a pinch of nutmeg powder will add fragrance and flavour to it and enhance nutritional value.
- Tapioca pearls porridge (Sabudana kheer): It is an easy recipe that you can give to your baby. Wash tapioca and soak them overnight. Take a pan and add a little water, milk and tapioca. Cook till it becomes soft. You can add a pinch of cinnamon powder to enhance flavour. Adding fruit puree from below to this mixture when its cooled down is a way of making the meal sweet and complete with nutrition. Adding dates or fig puree is also a way to sweeten the meal and making it rich in Iron. (How does eating fast-food harm kids calcium?)
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