Honestly, as a Mom and dietitian there is no reason to start food introductions with rice cereal. Rice cereal has been a long-time staple of the food introduction folklore, but there is no science or even practical reasoning behind it. Rice cereal has very little nutritional value. It is starchy, full of carbohydrates with little to no protein or fat and very few vitamins and minerals. Even the iron that is added to most brands is very poorly absorbed and frequently contributes to constipation. And that whole “add rice cereal to the bottle to make them sleep through the night” idea? Sorry, it’s a myth
Why go for rice cereal when we have so many other delicious options? Here are some ideas for the different age groups:
4-6 months, pureed food (the Allergy society recommends to wait until at least 4-6 months before introducing solid foods. I strongly agree. There is no downside to waiting past 4 months, as mothers milk is by far the best and most nutritious food.)
- Avocado (a great first food! Full of healthy fats, mild in flavour)
- Carrots (add a drizzle of olive oil to increase the calories)
- Sweet potato
- Hubbard squash/butternut/pumpkin (mixed with a little cinnamon – yum!)
6-9 months, pureed food, start small finger food
- Berries (except strawberries, which can be allergenic – wait until 12+ months to introduce those)
- Broccoli, kale, chard and other “brassica” family vegetables
- Cream cheese
- Poultry (even though it’s expensive, organic is really the best)
- Ostrich or venison
- Nut butters
- Beans and lentils (mixed with some chicken stock – yummy!)
- Sunflower and pumpkin seed butter (thinned)
- Grains like oats, rice, quinoa, buckwheat
- Blackstrap molasses (you can add a little to just about everything to increase iron and calcium)
7-12 months, mashed or finger food
- Orange and other citrus
- Barley, rye and wheat
- Beef (pureed beef stew in tomato stock is so delicious!)
Obviously there are a lot more foods. Fruit and Veggies can be introduced daily, new one every day to increase range and variety.
With the protein foods – Start with one food at a time and wait 3-4 days before introducing a new food (this is to see if there is a delayed food intolerance that may not be immediately noticeable). Once one food is well tolerated you can mix and match (or mix and mash) – e.g., chicken and pumpkin, avocado and peas.
There are lots of opinions on how to introduce foods and when to add spices and herbs. Personally, I think adding flavor is a great idea while the child’s palate is still developing. Many infants start with extremely spicy curries and peppered dishes. I don’t recommend that – unless your family is already used to some heat – but definitely consider adding a dash of cinnamon, a pinch of paprika, or some ground herbs like basil, thyme or oregano. Just remember that infant portions are very small, so the spice needs to be proportionate.
Making your own is so much more fun (and less expensive) than buying baby food jars.
For a more comprehensive list of foods, plus a guide to knowing when your child is ready to start solids, visit our website (www.nutripaeds.co.za) and download the “Solid Food Introduction” handout.