Between the time that babies start moving across the floor and when they begin to walk with confidence, they will put almost anything in their mouths to sample and explore. This is an excellent time to introduce a variety of healthy foods because this window of opportunity will soon close. Toddlers often restrict their food choices to those they have come to trust during pregnancy, nursing, and early taste experiences.This makes historical sense: you wouldn’t want a new walker to toddle away from parents and sample a new berry or an unfamiliar leaf.
I don’t personally agree with the twentieth-century idea of introducing only one food at a time, spread five to seven days apart, processed-flavored and devoid of spices. I understand this used to be considered state-of-the-art advice. I understand the fear of allergies and of strong flavors behind this blip in nutrition history. However, it did nothing to decrease food allergies; it only made it a bit easier to identify the culprits—not worth the huge cost, in my opinion. The 2006 American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for feeding children forgo any suggestion of waiting three or five or seven days between foods. And real flavors have been an important part of baby food in almost every culture in history except the second half of the twentieth century.
So as you introduce solid foods, whether it be with intervals between each new food or with several foods at once, choose as many healthy, real flavors as possible—again with an eye to the foods that you will want your child to enjoy at age two and then throughout life. Grab this opportunity to introduce a culture of delight and spice, not of fear and blandness.
Typically kids need to be exposed to a flavor at least six to nine times (often as many as fifteen times) before they acquire a taste for it. (Some of these exposures may happen even before the baby is born.) This need for repeated exposures is normal and beneficial (so kids don’t learn to love debris from the floor the first time they put it in their mouths!). The key is to offer a bite of the new flavors each day, but not to push or coax kids beyond that first bite. Let them taste and explore before you expect a food to become a real meal.
Foods With Color
Nature has very wisely given bright colors to many of its best foods. The purpose, I believe, is to attract our attention to the foods that are filled with the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients essential for healthy growth and development. Sometimes the color is in the food itself (beets); sometimes the color is in the peel (bananas). You may think of bananas as white, but they are rich in vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber—a great food for babies. Babies love them, and they don’t require cooking. Just smushing or slicing, depending on your baby’s stage.
As you begin to introduce solid foods (whether homemade organic pureed foods or organic commercial-brand baby foods), lean toward vibrant, natural color. Later, when teaching your preschooler colors, I love using foods, flowers, and abundant colors of nature. For now, here are a few ideas to link vibrant color with health foods:
- Orange. Carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash are packed with nutrients, especially vitamin A, so necessary for vision.
- Green. There is a reason the movement to save the planet uses the green moniker—green is rich in so many elements necessary for a healthy life. Steamed and blended broccoli, for example, is a powerhouse of nutrients. ....read more
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3. Committee on Nutrition. “The Use and Misuse of Fruit Juice in Pediatrics.” Pediatrics, 2001, 107(5), pp. 1210–1213.