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So often we hear the question, “What would be your last meal on Earth?” (mine would include fish tacos and carrot cake, for the record) but rarely do we sit back to think, “What was my first meal on Earth?” As loving caregivers and parents, serving up the first real meal to our little one is something we really do think quite a bit about. It’s a big and exciting moment – a time when your baby finally gets the opportunity to explore the wonderful world of real food.
When it comes to the first meal, I caution not to overthink it too much. For several more months, your baby is still drinking the majority of their calories and nutrients, so mealtime is meant more to be an opportunity to experience different tastes and textures. Traditionally, iron-fortified baby cereals mixed with breastmilk or formula are given as first foods primarily because iron is a top priority nutrient for babies. This is because iron carries oxygen throughout the body, supplying it for brain development and quickly growing bodies. As an alternative, cooked and pureed meat or poultry actually make for great first foods due to their easily absorbable iron and zinc.
If you’d rather stay on the more traditional bandwagon of pureed fruits and veggies for starter foods, some favorites include nutrient-rich avocado, sweet potato, carrots, banana, or peas. And if you’ve heard that introducing sweet foods first can set up a taste preference for sweet in the long run, there’s actually no research backing that claim up. So, it’s up to you whether you opt for beans or butternut squash.
Regardless of what food you choose, refrain from putting cereal or any other solids in your baby’s bottle as this can be a choking hazard. Also, keep in mind that current evidence does not indicate the need to wait beyond six months to introduce potentially allergy-causing foods such as dairy, peanuts, or eggs.
This first meal is an exciting milestone and one that you can approach with ease. Regardless of the outcome – whether the food is met with a distasteful expression or with pure bliss – try not to sweat it. You have years of meals to enjoy together.