After I had my first child, I couldn’t wait until she started solids.
I was so excited to make homemade baby food, try out all the different flavor and texture combinations, and introduce them to her for the very first time.
I realized that one of my responsibilities as a parent was to feed her healthy food and raise her to be an adventurous eater.
Just as I was helping her brain development by reading to her and her gross motor development with tummy time, feeding her in a healthy way was helping her to develop her food preferences, expand her palette and set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating.
In fact, research backs this up and shows the earlier and more frequent you offer healthy foods to your baby, the better.
According to a July 2013 study in the Journal of Nutrition, infants who were exposed to a basic artichoke puree 10 times were more likely to accept and like it up to 3 months later than babies who were fed either a sweetened artichoke puree or an energy dense artichoke puree with more oil and salt.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend parents expose their babies to a wide variety of healthy foods, especially fruits and vegetables starting at 6-months-old. As babies grow, it’s also important to introduce a variety of textures to encourage chewing.
Here, read on for a list of 15 healthy foods to feed your baby before age 1.
To increase the chances that your baby will love vegetables—not just sweet types like butternut squash—start out with the dark, green leafy types like spinach.
A good source of protein and fiber, spinach is also rich in vitamins A, C, E, B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.
Since spinach is on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list for high levels of pesticide residues, consider purchasing organic spinach (fresh or frozen).
2. Nut butters
When my kids were babies just a few years ago, the advice from pediatricians was to avoid feeding babies nuts to avoid food allergies, but in 2017 all that changed.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now say parents with babies who don’t have eczema or food allergies can “freely” introduce peanuts between 4 and 6 months of age.
I recommend you read all of the guidelines here and talk to your pediatrician before introducing nut butter—not nuts since they’re a choking hazard.
Once you get the green light however, nut butters like peanut butter and almond butter can be a healthy addition to your baby’s diet.
They’re an excellent source of protein, high in omega-3 fatty acids which support brain and eye health, and vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant that protects cells from the damage of free radicals.
With 20 vitamins and minerals including vitamins B5, B6, C, E, K, folate, potassium, and magnesium, avocado is one of the best healthy foods to feed your baby.
Avocado is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, which are vital for brain growth and development.
It also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids, or plant pigments, found in the eyes that can improve memory and processing speed, an April 2015 study found.
With 22 vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, C, and E, plus fiber, pumpkin is a great first food for babies.
Pumpkin is also rich in lutein and beta-carotene, an antioxidant and plant pigment that gives the fruit its bright orange color.
Kiwi is a good source of fiber, vitamin E, potassium and copper, and an excellent source of vitamins C and K.
Since it’s sweet, juicy and soft, it also makes an ideal first food.
Eggs are an excellent source of fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, protein and choline, an essential nutrient that is beneficial for heart health, brain and liver function and metabolism.
If you’re breastfeeding, feeding your baby eggs is also a great idea because the yolks are an excellent source of iron, and iron stores start to become depleted between 4 and 6 months old.
Eggs are delicious, have a delicate texture and are easy for babies to pick up. They’re also easily mixed into purees or meals with chunkier textures.
Carrots get their bright orange color from beta-carotene, a carotenoid, or a type of antioxidant.
Carrots are a good source of fiber, potassium and vitamins A, B6, C and K, and are a perfect first food for babies because they’re easily steamed and pureed.
Their mild, but slightly sweet taste is also favorable to most babies too.
According to a June 2019 study by the AAP, although fish and seafood are high in protein and other nutrients like vitamin D, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids which kids need for their development, most aren’t eating enough.
Early introduction to fish and seafood may also improve a baby’s neurodevelopment, decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease and may even help prevent asthma and eczema, the AAP states.
Mercury exposure is always a concern, but salmon, and other types of low-mercury fish, are good choices.
Related: What Types of Fish Are Safe for Kids?
Broccoli is a great source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, folic acid, iron and potassium.
When starting solids, you can make a broccoli puree or if you’re doing baby-led weaning, steam the florets until they’re very soft.
10. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a great source of potassium, vitamin C and fiber—a good thing if your baby is constipated.
It may not be a food you’ve eaten, but liver is surprisingly one of the best healthy foods to feed your baby before age 1.
Iron is an excellent source of protein, iron, vitamins A, B6 and B12 and minerals like zinc and selenium.
If you decide to try it, it’s a good idea to purchase liver that’s from pasture-raised, organic fed animals and from a butcher you trust.
Apples are healthy and delicious and a first food for baby that’s easy to digest.
A good source of vitamin C and fiber, apples also have quercetin, a flavonoid that work as antioxidants and may improve brain function, a March 2017 study in the Journal Behavioural Brain Research suggests.
Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and a good source of fiber, vitamins C and K and manganese.
Blueberries also make for a quick and easy finger food, or as a puree, you can blend them with other vegetables, mix them into oatmeal or drizzle on pancakes.
Rich in antioxidants, beets are a good source of vitamin C, iron, magnesium, fiber, folate, potassium and manganese.
Studies show beets may also be beneficial for brain health. According to an October 2015 study published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, drinking beetroot juice can improve cognitive performance.
While their bright red color will likely spark your baby’s interest, they can have a slightly bitter taste. To offset it, try roasting them, or mixing them with apples, pears, or sweet potatoes.