How to Properly Introduce Foods to Babies

As part of Food Allergy Awareness Month last month, the National Peanut Board worked with Jenna Helwig, the author or Real Baby Food and the food editor of Parents Magazine, to educate parents about introducing foods to babies.  The national satellite television and radio media tour reached millions of Americans.  We also asked Jenna to share her thoughts here.

Why is the proper introduction of foods such an important and timely topic?

Conventional wisdom held that introducing babies to foods slowly would reduce the risk of developing an allergic reaction. Now, new research indicates that eating a peanut-containing snack by infants who are at high-risk for developing peanut allergy prevents the subsequent development of allergy. In fact, this latest study supports recommendations from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology that foods like peanut butter and eggs can be introduced into baby’s diet at around six months of age, as soon as your baby has tried and tolerated a few traditional solid foods like iron fortified cereals, fruits and vegetables.

What is the best way to get them started?

Most babies start solids eating purees and experimenting with finger foods. This age is the time to introduce baby to all kinds of flavors to broaden their culinary horizons. Think about a fruit puree with a teaspoon of peanut butter stirred in.  Another option is to spread peanut butter on toast and cut it into strips. Your baby might not eat much of the toast, but she’ll surely taste some of the peanut butter. There’s a reason peanut butter is a popular food for all ages – it’s affordable, nutritious and versatile.  Most of all, it tastes good.

We all want to prepare healthy meals for our family, but many children are picky eaters especially as toddlers.  What is the solution?

The more flavors babies are exposed to before age one, the more likely they are to enjoy fruits and vegetables as older children.  Think about making a PB and P smoothie – where the second “P” stands for peaches.  Of course, you can substitute any frozen fruit like grapes or strawberries for the peaches.

It seems like with babies and toddlers you are always busy in the kitchen making snacks.

Snacks are really important for toddlers.  They need regular fueling with nutritious food throughout the day.  Two of my daughter’s favorites are a peanut butter and strawberry rollup on a whole wheat tortilla and a dip for fruit and veggies made with peanut butter and plain yogurt.

Where can parents get more tips?

The National Peanut Board or check out “Real Baby Food,” which is available wherever fine books are sold.

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