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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.
McKenzie is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, nutrition writer and communicator, who truly loves meeting and connecting with people. Grounded in science with an integrative and holistic approach, she aims to make the world a healthier, happier place by helping people feel their best from the inside out and encouraging others to restore a judgment-free relationship with food. McKenzie has been a contributing editor for the award-winning publicationEnvironmental Nutrition and her numerous articles, nutrition tips, and recipes can be found in publications such as The Chicago Tribune, Today’s Dietitian, Food and Nutrition Magazine, and more.
McKenzie graduated magna cum laude from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo with a degree in Nutrition and completed her dietetic internship at Bastyr University in Seattle. She is a member of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a member of the dietetic practice group, Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine. When she’s not dishing out nutrition tidbits, you can find McKenzie cooking in her sunny kitchen, hiking along with her favorite Southern California trails, or packing her bags and heading out for her next adventure.