Credit: palomino @ morgueFileFor the first couple months of his life, your baby will exist solely on breast milk or formula. When you wean your baby and introduce new foods is based on a number of factors, including family lifestyle and your baby's nutritional needs. Whether you are breast-feeding or using formula to nourish your child may make a difference in when you begin weaning. One of the benefits of breast milk is that the flavor changes at every meal, giving your child an early introduction to a varied palate. Weaning a child who has experienced one flavor only, may take longer and you may be anxious to get started. If you want to start a bit earlier or later than recommended, it is always a good idea to check with your pediatrician who may advise otherwise.
A Weaning Timeline
An average timeline for weaning will look very similar to this one provided by mother, chef and writer, Nigella Lawson:
- 4-5 months: vegetable purées of carrots, cauliflower, potatoes, squashes, green beans and sweet potatoes. Fruit purées of apples, pears and bananas.
- 5-6 months: vegetable purées of avocados, peas, tomatoes, spinach, celery and sweet peppers. Fruit purées of apricots, kiwis, melons, peaches and plums.
- 6 months: chicken and dairy products
- 6-7 months: your purées should begin to solidify and be more of a mash. Diet can now include berries, citrus fruits, mangos and sweetcorn.
- 6-12 months: Slowly add other meats.
- 8-9 months: chunkier textures (equal to chewing ability) and eggs, fish and lentils.
Many sources recommend waiting until your child is over two years to introduce food such as shellfish and peanuts which often trigger allergic reactions. It is also advisable to wait as long as possible before adding salt to your child's food. Many children exceed the recommended sodium intake and should be encouraged to enjoy food naturally.
Although the convenience of store-bought baby food is appealing to most busy parents, it is better to start by making your own mush from scratch. These jars may carry just as many nutrients as your own creations, however yours will be preservative-free and you have more freedom to encourage the flavors your family enjoys.
To prepare your own baby food, Nigella advises boiling or steaming vegetables, although the microwave is often suitable for fruits.  Once cooked, the foods are mashed (either by hand or with a food processor), and then cooled. It is a good idea to start off with just a flavor or two, such as pears or carrots and slowly add more to your baby's diet. Once you have adapted to a single ingredient, then feel free to add to the combination. For example, you can try mixing carrots with pumpkin to create a meal for your baby that you will encourage later on.
To cook and freeze several meals worth at once, make sure the food has cooled before placing in the freezer. Ice cube trays are excellent for dividing your batches into smaller portions. Just ensure your wrap these securely before putting in the freezer to prevent freezer burn.
By the time your child is one, you should be feeding them regular meals that are beginning to resemble food as adults know it.
Although USDA's Food Pyramid makes recommendations for children aged 2 and up, you can assume that you should feed your children the same varied diet, just with smaller portion sizes. For more information on the food pyramid system and portion sizes, check out Children's Nutrition: An Overview. The calorie counting system suggests an intake of 1000 calories for one year olds. This changes very little when your child turns two. The development of healthy eating habits at this stage is as important as nutritional values. As you continue experimenting with new foods, keep in mind that about half of your baby's calorie intake should come from fats.
As your child transitions from mush to more refined tastes, have a look at some of these recipes. Nutritional analysis for these recipes from BigOven software.
Recipes for One Year-Olds
Honey Apple Bread
Ingredients for 1 serving:
- 1 small Apple, grated
- 1 teaspoon Honey
- 1 slice Whole wheat bread
Mix the grated apple together with the honey and spread over the bread. Cut into fingers, squares. Or use cookie cutters for other shapes before adding the honey apple spread.
- Calories: 148
- Protein: 3 grams
- Carbohydrates: 32 grams
- Total fat: 1 grams
- Sodium: 148 grams
- Fiber: 4 grams
Cheese and Vegetable Baked Potatoes
Ingredients for 2 servings:
- 1 large Potato, baked
- 1/2 cup Low-fat plain yogurt
- 1 cup Broccoli, chopped
- 1/4 cup Cheddar cheese, grated
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F. Slice baked potato lengthwise. Carefully scoop out potato. Mash the potato in a medium mixing bowl. Mix in the yogurt and broccoli. Place potato shells on baking sheet. Spoon mixture back into potato shells. Top with Cheddar cheese and bake for 10 - 15 minutes.
- Calories: 310
- Protein: 14 grams
- Carbohydrates: 50 grams
- Total fat: 7 grams
- Sodium: 186 grams
- Fiber: 8 grams
Banana Strawberry Smoothie
Ingredients for 2 servings:
- 1 cup Raspberry yogurt
- 1 Banana
- 1 cup Apple juice
- 2 cups Strawberries (fresh or frozen)
Blend all ingredients together in a blender on high for a minute or so until they're smooth.
- Calories: 281
- Protein: 7 grams
- Carbohydrates: 62 grams
- Total fat: 2 grams
- Sodium: 77 grams
- Fiber: 5 grams
For specific guidelines relevant to older children and an overview of both the Food Pyramid and the Daily Calorie Intake models, have a look at these articles:
- Children's Nutrition: An Overview
- Children's Nutrition: Guidelines for 2-3 Year Olds
- Children's Nutrition: Guidelines for 4-8 Year Olds
- Children's Nutrition: Guidelines for 9-11 Year Olds
And for more information on adapting your favorite recipes for your kids, have a look at:
Information provided in this article has come from different sources, including web resources such as the Mayo Clinic and books focusing on children's recipes and nutrition. While much of the data has been researched by nutritionists, some of it is contradictory. The author of this article is not a pediatrician or a nutritionist and recommends that you contact a registered practitioner should you have concerns with your child's health.