Now that your baby is able to pick up food and put it in his mouth on his own, you can break out the Cheerios and other yummy bite-sized stuff! Start with foods that have been well-received in pureed form on a spoon, serving them up in manageable cubes or chunks — pea-size for firmer items, marble-size for softer foods. Read on for plenty of tasty-yet-safe suggestions.
Bread or Crackers Even babies who can't pick things up with their fingers can hold a biscuit or a piece of lightly toasted bread in their hands and suck on it until it dissolves into a gooey mess. The trick is finding breads and crackers that turn mushy (not lumpy) in his mouth and are easier to swallow. Later on, when he's a pro at the pincer grasp, you can put small pieces of lightly toasted bread on his high-chair tray.
Oat Circle Cereal There's a reason why every mom has a box of Cheerios in her pantry (and a baggie of them in her purse) — they're the perfect size and texture for little fingers and tender gums to practice on. But you can also think outside the circle and serve your baby wheat or rice puffs, too. Another bonus: Your baby will be so busy working on her new skill ("Look at me eating all by myself!") that you'll probably be able to sit and enjoy a bowl of cereal yourself. Cereals to skip for now include honey-flavored ones — babies under one shouldn't have honey, even when it's baked into something.
Cheese Kid-friendly, protein-packed, loaded with calcium and other bone-building minerals — what's not to love about cheese? Start your baby off with a mild-tasting, pasteurized variety, like mozzarella or a non-sharp cheddar, either shredded or cut into tiny cubes. When he's used to the taste and texture, you can broaden his range by including havarti and Swiss and serving up kid faves like bits of grilled cheese and quesadillas.
Fruit Turn your baby into a fruit fiend by giving her squished blueberries or small pieces of soft fruits like banana or very ripe, peeled and skinned pear. (To make it easier to pick up slippery banana pieces, try dusting them in crushed Cheerios first.) Ripe mangoes, peaches, apricots, kiwis, honeydew and cantaloupe are also likely to appeal to your baby's sweet tooth (or gums), but make sure to take off any skin first.
Veggies Once your baby's started solid foods, just about any vegetable can be baby-proofed by cooking it until it's very tender. Merely cut away the stalks, and broccoli and cauliflower florets can be turned into teeny-tiny trees for your little one's culinary amusement. Very small pieces of sweet potatoes, carrots, peas (cut in half or crushed) and butternut squash make sweet sides for your sweetie when cooked until soft — and they're loaded with beta-carotene and other nutrients.
Fish Fish is the almost-perfect food. It's packed with protein, calcium and iron, and loaded with heart-healthy omega-3s. Studies show it can alleviate eczema and boost brain power, too. Serve up flakes of firm, white-fleshed fish like cod, sole or flounder — baked, poached or broiled — and let your baby dive in. These fish are easier to digest and lowest in allergens and mercury.
Meatballs Your baby's not ready for steak yet, but you can up his iron intake by giving him soft meatballs made from hamburger or ground turkey (get the kind ground from turkey thighs, which are even higher in iron). To make sure they're not overly crusty and too firm for your baby's tender mouth, cook them in a sauce or soup instead of frying them solo. Then cut the meatballs into very small pieces, put a few on the tray and let the fun begin.
Tofu Anything made with soy continues to get a bad rap as a baby food from those who are concerned about isoflavones' ability to boost estrogen production, even though the research shows no hormonal effects on babies. But banning tofu from your baby's diet would be a mistake — it's packed with iron, protein and calcium, and it's rich in fiber too. To make it easier for little fingers to pick up (and for Mom to cube quickly), serve the extra-firm kind. If your baby's not bowled over because of soy's blandness, cook some cubes in soup to make it tastier. A few things to watch out for: Soy is harder to digest than vegetables, so wait until your baby is eight months old before you serve it.
Pasta It'll be years before your baby can twirl spaghetti on a fork, but start her on the path by dishing out the pasta. Opt for healthy, whole-grain varieties so she develops a taste for it, but be sure to cook it a little longer than you would regular pasta, because it tends to be firmer. Almost any shape is baby-friendly as long as you cut it into small bites — but wheels, shells and bow ties may have special appeal and be easier to handle.
Egg Yolks You may have heard that you should avoid feeding babies allergenic foods — including eggs — during the first year. But the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends introducing allergenic foods early, between 4 and 11 months, to prevent food allergies. And that’s a good thing, since they're packed with healthy protein and several essential nutrients. Once your doctor gives you the okay to introduce eggs, the easiest way to slip some into your baby's diet is to hard-boil them, then cut up the yolks into little slivers.
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