The Best Solid Foods to Feed Your Baby

Are you getting ready to start your baby on solid foods? Are you excited? Scared? Maybe a bit of both? If you’ve been browsing the internet or perhaps your local bookstore I bet that you’ve found a ton of conflicting information on what to feed your baby during weaning. For the past 7 years I’ve been advising parents, other caregivers, and health professionals on how to feed babies their first foods so that they safely meet babies’ rapidly changing nutrition needs. Here’s the latest scientific-evidence based information that you need to know when choosing baby food.

Choose Iron-Rich Foods

The recommendation to start feeding babies solid foods at about 6 months old comes from the fact that at about 6 months of age, babies start running out of the iron that they stored in their bodies while they were in your womb. Breastmilk is naturally low in iron so you need to provide your baby with iron from another source – solid foods.

Why is iron important? Iron is used in overall growth and development. It’s especially important for little one’s brain development – for babies to reach full their cognitive potential. That’s why it’s recommended to offer your baby iron-rich foods at least twice a day.

The Best Iron-Rich Baby Foods:

  • Meat
  • Poultry (e.g. chicken, turkey)
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Egg yolk
  • Beans and lentils
  • Tofu (it’s made from soybeans afterall)
  • Nut butters
  • Iron-fortified baby cereal

Spinach also contains iron. However, even when cooked, we absorb very little of it into our bodies. That’s why it’s not on this list. Sorry Popeye, you were wrong.

Parents often ask me if they have to give their babies each of the high-iron foods. The short answer is “no“. This is a list of options. For example, if you’re raising your baby vegetarian, choose the vegetarian foods. Or, if you never eat tofu in your house, don’t buy tofu. Or, if you hate the smell of fish cooking, don’t cook fish. Or, if you don’t like the idea of added iron in baby cereal, don’t use iron-fortified baby cereal.

Choose Foods Your Family Eats

Of course, good nutrition goes beyond just feeding your baby iron. Once you’ve introduced a few iron-rich foods, introduce other foods one at a time. Choose foods from all the food groups.

Which foods are best? Healthy foods that your family eats. As one of my favourite quotes says:

“The goal of feeding your baby is to have your baby join you at the family table… not for you to join your baby at their highchair.” ~ Ellyn Satter

Take advantage of your baby’ developmental stage and introduce a wide variety of foods while your baby is interested in trying them. Sooner or later your baby will reach the picky eating stage (usually somewhere between 12 – 24 months old). The wider the variety of foods that you’ve introduced before your little one reaches this stage the better.

Foods to Avoid

While the recommendations regarding delaying introducing foods from a food allergy prevention point of view have been sent to the proverbial recycling bin, there are a few foods to avoid – either from a food safety point of view or a nutrition point of view. Foods and recipes to avoid or delay:

  • Honey (and baked goods containing honey) – wait until after 12 months of age.
  • Cows milk until 9 – 12 months (small amounts of yogurt and cheese are OK after about 6 months).
  • Raw meats, fish, raw/runny egg whites, or unpasteurized dairy foods – wait until 4 years.
  • Foods high in sugar and salt. Having a new baby is a great reason for the whole family to eat fewer of these foods.

Bottom Line

The best first solid foods for your baby are iron rich foods and healthy foods that your family eats. Enjoy watching your baby discover the wide variety of tastes and textures that food comes in!