14 Healthy Foods To Feed Your Baby Before Age 1

14 Healthy Foods To Feed Your Baby Before Age 1

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.

1. Spinach

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.


3. Avocado


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.

4. Pumpkin


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.


5. Kiwi


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.

6. Eggs


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.


7. Carrots


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.


8. Fish


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?


9. Broccoli

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.

11. Liver


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.

12. Apples


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.

13. Blueberries


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.


14. Beets


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.

[VIDEO] Is Dried Fruit Healthy For Kids?

[VIDEO] Is Dried Fruit Healthy For Kids?

Getting your kids to eat their vegetables is usually a challenge, but when it comes to fruit, most babies, toddlers and big kids love it.

Fresh, whole fruit is ideal for kids: it has plenty of vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber and water which kids not only need to thrive, but promotes feelings of satiety and can prevent constipation.

For those times when fresh fruit isn’t available or convenient however, you may have wondered, is dried fruit healthy for kids? Does dried fruit have too much sugar? And are raisins are a healthy snack for kids?

Here are answers those questions and more.

Short on time? Check out my video.

Dried fruit health benefits

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the amount of whole fruit kids consume has increased 67 percent, but 60 percent of kids still aren’t eating enough. 

So whether you buy it in a bag, a box, or as part of your favorite trail mix, dried fruit can be healthy for kids and a way to increase the amount of servings they get each day.

Dried fruit contains more fiber and phenols, a type of antioxidant that’s protective against certain diseases, than fresh fruit per ounce, Anthony Komaroff, M.D. states in this article.

What’s more, dried fruit can provide significant proportions of the daily recommended intake of several micronutrients like folate.

However, certain types of dried fruit lose some of their nutrients like vitamins A, C, thiamine and folate—a result of the drying process.

Unlike other types of kids’ snacks, dried fruit contains no sodium, cholesterol or fat (except for coconut).

Adding dried fruit to a salad, veggies, or plain Greek yogurt for example, can make it taste better and encourage your kids to eat foods they wouldn’t have otherwise touched.

Dried fruit is healthy because it has natural sugars, right?

When it comes to sugar, most experts say that it’s the added sugars that we should be paying attention to.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), too much added sugar can increase a child’s risk for obesity, tooth decay, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends kids between 2 and 18 eat less than 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, of added sugars a day.

As the new Nutrition Facts labels continue to be rolled out, it will be easier than ever to decipher the grams of natural and added sugars in a food.

Although some experts consider dried fruit healthy for kids because it has natural sugars, I’m not convinced.

Through my work as a health journalist, I’m of the mind that all sugar, whether it’s natural or added, has the same effect on the body and should be limited.

And some experts agree.

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, “…high fructose corn syrup is absolutely worse for you than the natural sugar found in berries and apples, but for the most part, sugar is sugar is sugar. It all wreaks havoc on your health.”

Another thing to consider is that some manufacturers add sugar to certain types of dried fruit like tart cranberries so that they’ll taste sweet.

Related: What is High-Fructose Corn Syrup?

The calories in dried fruit can add up quickly

When you compare the same serving size of fresh fruit to dried fruit, dried fruit has  more calories.

Counting calories isn’t something any kid should be doing, whether they’re overweight or not. But it’s important to keep in mind that since dried fruit is so sweet and snackable, it’s easy to go overboard.

Are raisins a healthy snack for kids?

Individual portions of raisins are a kid-favorite and can be a healthy addition to your kid’s diet.

One small box has nearly 2 grams of fiber and protein, and they’re also a good source of iron, potassium and magnesium, the “calming mineral.”

Yet keep in mind that raisins are also high in sugar— 25 grams worth—so stick with grapes when you can, which are lower in sugar and more filling thanks to the amount of water they contain.

What about yogurt-covered raisins?

Yogurt-covered raisins sound like a healthy option for kids, but take a look at what Sun-Maid Vanilla Yogurt Raisins are actually made with:

Yogurt flavored coating (sugar, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, nonfat milk  powder, yogurt powder (cultured whey and nonfat milk), whey powder, artificial color (titanium dioxide), soy lecithin—an emulsifier, and vanilla),tapioca dextrin, confectioners glaze).

When you consider the ingredients, it’s best to serve these as a treat—or not at all.

Tips for Buying & Serving Dried Fruit

The next time you give your kids dried fruit, keep these tips in mind.

  • Since certain types of fruit (whether they’re fresh or dried) make the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list, consider purchasing organic dried fruit to avoid pesticide exposure.
  • Read labels carefully and look for products where dried fruit is the only ingredient.
  • When buying cranberries, choose those that are sweetened with fruit juice, not sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners, Cynthia Sass, RD states in this article.
  • Avoid dried fruit with artificial preservatives like sulfur dioxide and other additives.
  • Think of dried fruit as an extra: add it in small quantities to unsalted nuts and seeds, oatmeal, healthy cookies or homemade bars, and to vegetable and grain dishes.
  • Keep portion sizes in mind: one cup of fresh fruit is equivalent to 1/4 of dried fruit. But keep in mind, kids’ portion sizes are typically smaller depending on their ages.

The bottom line: dried fruit can be healthy for kids, but it’s best consumed in moderation and in the right portions.

5 Reasons Not To Be A Short Order Cook  Being a short order cook makes meal times easier, but can create habits that are hard to break in the long run.

5 Reasons Not To Be A Short Order Cook

Being a short order cook makes meal times easier, but can create habits that are hard to break in the long run.

Although my kids eat just about anything I put on their plates today, when my younger daughter was a toddler—and a picky eater—I fell into the trap of being a short order cook.

If she didn’t eat the food I served, or didn’t eat what I thought was “enough,” there were times when I’d pull something different out of the refrigerator that I knew she would eat.

Although this short order cooking made my life a lot easier, I realized that if I made it a habit, it would be a tough one to break.

And more importantly, I wanted her to learn that what I served was the only option, and she could choose to eat it or not.

If you have toddlers or young children who are picky eaters or flat out refuse to eat, chances are, you’ve become a short order cook too.

Here, I’d like you to consider 5 reasons why you should nip it in the bud ASAP.

1. Your child misses out on opportunities to try new foods

The key to raising kids who are healthy and adventurous eaters is giving them plenty of opportunities to try new foods.

The reality is that we can’t expect our kids to instantly love broccoli or take to carrots on the first try.

In fact, studies show it can take serving small portions of the same food 15 to 20 times before kids will even take a bite.

Related: Feeding Toddlers: What, When and How Much To Feed 1- to 3-year-olds

If kids eat the same foods over and over again, they’ll never expand their preferences for new foods they may actually come to love.

2. Being a short order cook is too time consuming

Whether you’re a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, or somewhere in between, life is hectic and you’re exhausted after a long day.

Although short order cooking can make dinnertime less stressful, making one meal for the whole family and an additional meal for your picky eater takes more time—even if it is only opening a package of frozen chicken nuggets.

Something else to consider is that preparing a second meal for your child can also make your life stressful if you have to constantly make sure you have foods on hand that your kid will eat.

If you go to a family or friend’s house for dinner and they serve something you know your kid will refuse, you’ll have to pack foods for him which only reinforces the picky eating.

You start to believe, “my kid is a picky eater,” and will only eat a handful of foods, when in reality, you can’t expect any different when that’s all he’s being served in the first place.

3. Short order cooking creates power struggles

It’s normal for toddlers to be picky eaters and a part of that is their desire for control.

So if you continue to be a short order cook, your child learns that no matter what he wants, you’ll give in.

According to Ellyn Satter, an authority on eating and feeding, it’s the parent’s responsibility to decide the what, when and where of feeding, and the child’s responsibility to decide how much and whether to eat.

4. Short order cooking usually means less nutritious food

I think it’s safe to say that kids who eat separate meals from the rest of the family usually eat foods that aren’t the healthiest.

Boxed macaroni and cheese, kid-friendly frozen meals, pasta with butter, and processed snack foods are usually easy, go-to foods while fruits and vegetables rarely make their way on kids’ plates.

5. Kids may grow up to be picky eating adults

Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons not to be a short order cook is that you want to raise kids who will be healthy throughout their lives.

According to an article in the New York Times, 75 percent of adults who call themselves picky eaters say the behaviors started in childhood.

In the U.S., we’re facing sky-high rates of obesity, chronic health conditions like type-2 diabetes, heart disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NALFD), autoimmunity and depression and anxiety.

Not to mention, we have a nation of people who turn to food when they’re stressed, bored or frustrated instead of finding healthy, more effective ways to cope.

Teaching our kids how to eat healthy and have healthy eating habits is important because their lives depend on it now and well into the future.

How Not to Be a Short Order Cook

Offer choices

While scrambled eggs and toast is all you’ll be able to pull together for dinner certain nights, when you do cook meals, try to offer choices.

When kids feel that eating is in their control, they’ll be more likely to make healthy

choices—as long as those choices are offered.

Put out a cooked vegetable and a salad, serve one of your kid’s favorite foods along with a new food, or serve a type of fruit you know your kid will eat—even if he eats nothing else.

Eat meals together

Family dinners may not happen every night, but sitting down as a family to eat any meal can prevent short order cooking.

In fact, children who eat with their families at least 3 times a week are more likely to eat healthy foods, a 2011 meta-analysis published in the journal Pediatrics found.

Cook with your kids

When kids take part in cooking meals, they learn each step of the process and they feel empowered to eat healthy because they had a hand in making the meal.

Cooking with your kids provides another opportunity to expand their palates and try new flavors, tastes and textures.

Stay consistent

Teaching kids about healthy foods and healthy eating habits takes consistency—and plenty of patience—at every meal.

Kids who are picky eaters aren’t going to change their ways overnight—and we can’t expect them to.

It’s also important to realize that everyone has their own food preferences so he won’t love what’s being served all of the time.

Just like with anything else that you have rules about or teach your children, they may not like it but that’s the way it goes!

Did you used to be a short order cook? How were you able to put an end to it? 

9 Cheap Healthy Foods Under $2

9 Cheap Healthy Foods Under $2

When it comes to my family’s budget, one of our largest line items is food. Each week, I spend anywhere between $150 and $250 dollars on groceries. Although none of it goes to waste—my kids are good eaters—it drives me crazy to spend so much to eat healthy.

Although I find ways to lower our grocery bill such as by buying foods in bulk, eating less meat and more plant-based meals, and shopping sales, it seems that whole, fresh foods are usually pricier than foods in a box, can or package. Aside for a few select items, these foods are highly processed, high in sodium, and low in nutrition.

Still, that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to find cheap healthy foods that are nutritious and won’t put a huge dent in your grocery bill.

Prices will vary depending on where you live and if you purchase organic, for example, but here is a solid list of 10 cheap healthy foods to add to your shopping list.

1. Frozen spinach

I prefer fresh vegetables over frozen because I think you get more bang for your buck, but frozen vegetables like spinach, can also be a good way to shave money off your grocery bill.

Frozen vegetables may actually be healthier than fresh varieties since they’re picked at their peak freshness and flash frozen.

In fact, a June 2017 study in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis found in some cases frozen produce is more nutritious than fresh that’s been stored in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Spinach is packed with nutrition and a good source of protein, fiber, vitamins A, C, E, B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium.

Spinach is also a good source of lutein, a carotenoid, which research suggests may improve brain health.

In fact, two studies from Abbott and the University of Illinois found children who had higher levels of lutein performed better when they were faced with tough cognitive tasks and they had higher scores on standardized tests.

Average cost: $.28 cents per serving

2. Pureed pumpkin

With 22 vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, C, and E, pureed, canned pumpkin is one of the best cheap healthy foods.

Pumpkin is also rich in lutein and beta-carotene, an antioxidant and plant pigment that gives the fruit its bright orange color.

You can add pureed pumpkin to waffles, pancakes, muffins and breads or eat it straight out of the can like my daughter does, but you’ll probably want to add some cinnamon and maybe a bit of honey. Pureed pumpkin also make a great first food for baby.

Average cost: $.52 cents per serving

Related: 6 Surprising Health Benefits of Pumpkin

3. Beans

Beans are high in both protein and fiber and an excellent source of iron.

Canned beans cost more than dried beans, but either one is still very affordable.

Add beans to rice and pasta dishes, incorporate them into soups, stews and chilis or serve them as an appetizer that your kids can munch on while you’re cooking dinner.

Average cost: $.29 cents a serving (canned); $.11 cents a serving (dried)

4. Brown rice

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 50 percent of the grains we eat be made up of whole grains, which have more nutrients and fiber than white, refined grains.

Brown rice is a great whole grain option because it’s a good source of protein, fiber, selenium, and manganese.

Since all types of rice (organic included), have been found to have high levels of arsenic, rinse rice before cooking, then drain the water and rinse again and at least one more time while cooking. Another good tip is to use as much water as you would when you cook pasta. 

Average cost: $.10 cents a serving

5. Tuna fish

Fish is one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids. It’s packed with protein, low in saturated fat, rich in micronutrients, and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which support brain health and memory.

Although many types of fish can be expensive, canned tuna fish is by far one of the most affordable.

It’s important however, to pick the right type of tuna since mercury is a concern.

Although albacore/white tuna is OK for kids to eat, the FDA and EPA recommend you limit it to one serving a week.

Tuna, canned light (including skipjack) on the other hand, have the lowest levels of mercury and are considered the safest.

Average cost: $1.30 cents per serving

Related: What Types of Fish Are Safe for Kids?

6. Peanut butter

The quintessential kid-friendly food, peanut butter is packed with protein: two tablespoons has 8 grams—plus filling fiber and healthy fats.

When choosing peanut butter however, it’s important to read labels carefully. Many brands are made with hydrogenated oils, added sugars including high-fructose corn syrup and fillers.

Choose brands that are made with peanuts (and list it as the first ingredient) and salt, depending on your preference.

Average cost: $.21 cents per serving

7. Edamame

An excellent source of protein, fiber, iron and magnesium, edamame (soybeans) are also high in calcium.

Edamame is quick and easy to prepare and lend themselves to almost any meal and can be served as a snack.

You can purchase edamame fresh or frozen, but look for those that are already shelled to save time. 

Average cost: $.83 cents per serving

8. Baby carrots

Carrots are one of the best cheap healthy foods thanks to vitamins A, C, K, B6, folate, iron, potassium and fiber: 1/2 cup has nearly 3 grams

Add carrots to salads, roast them as a healthy side dish, or pair them with hummus.

Average cost: $.28 cents per serving

9. Canned tomatoes

Tomatoes are a good source of fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamins A and C, and choline.

Tomatoes also contain lycopene, a type of carotenoid that protects the eyes from damage and keeps them healthy.

A can of whole, diced, or crushed tomatoes is always a good thing to have on hand for quick and easy dinners. Use tomatoes to make a quick pasta sauce, or add them to chili or soups.

Average cost: $.28 cents per serving

Related: 8 Supermarket Shortcut Foods To Make Healthy Eating Easy

10 Healthy 4th of July Snacks For Kids

10 Healthy 4th of July Snacks For Kids

The 4th of July is the quintessential American holiday filled with parades, fireworks and backyard barbecues. Whether you’re the one hosting or you’ll be a guest, hot dogs, burgers and corn on the cob are a sure-bet for kids, but you might want to also have some healthy 4th of July snacks on hand too.

These 10 healthy recipes are festive, super-easy to make, and will satisfy your kid’s hunger in between lawn games and fun in the pool. Bonus: there are gluten-free, nut-free and dairy-free options!

Related: [VIDEO] 10 Summer Healthy Eating Ideas For Kids

 

1. Fruit Sparklers

2. American Flag Vegetable Tray

2. Patriotic Yogurt Bites

3. Kid-Friendly Avocado Hummus Cups

3. Red, White and Blue Popsicles

4. Gluten-Free Berry Fruit Pizza

5. Zucchini Parmesan Fries

6. Melon Prosciutto Mozzarella Skewers

7. American Flag Cheese Plate

8. Blueberry, Strawberry & Jicama Salsa

9. Caprese Salad Skewers

10. Popcorn with dried blueberries and cranberries