From the age of 6 months to about 2 years old your child has very specific nutrient needs. This is the most significant stage of growth in their life. They will literally double in size. For the first six months breastmilk is covering all the bases for you. That is, if you are following a whole food nutrient rich diet.
When your child starts to eat solid foods things change real quick. Not only does your schedule change, but you have to start thinking, planning, and cooking foods for your little one to eat. As nice as it is to have some of the pressure off you breastfeeding, it brings on a whole other set of responsibilities. This article is a general overview on what to feed your baby within the first year.
Fat. Fat. Fat.
Did you know that your breastmilk is made up of 50 to 60 percent fat. Your baby needs fat. Very early on your child makes an enzyme (called lipase for my science nerds) to break down fat to be easily absorbed and used. This is not a coincidence… your baby needs fats (saturated and cholesterol). Fun, crazy fact for you - your baby’s brain is made up of 60% fat, more than half of their brain is fat in this critical developmental phase. I don’t know about you, but I want my kids to be as smart as possible. Another fun fact 80% of your child’s brain development happens in the first 5 years of life.
The best way to get your children the fat they need is through animal products. That is where almost all fat we consume is located. Non-animal products that have good fats: avocados, olive oil and coconut oil. Some ways to get fat into your kid’s diet is to add butter, olive oil and coconut oil to their pureed foods. Not only does it of course make it taste better, but it is a great way to get fat into them. Try different meat purees and adding meat to the pureed vegetables you are making.
I am going to dedicate a whole section in here to egg yolks. Seems weird I know and you are probably thinking aren’t kids not suppose to have eggs till they are a year old. You are right to an extent… they don’t have the ability to digest egg whites till about a year. You know how I said fats are so good for baby, well egg yolks are made up of a lot of cholesterol which is a great fat for them. The list of other nutrients in a pasture raised egg yolk is long (and just what baby needs at this phase) - choline, arachidonic acid, vitamin A, vitamin D, iron, and folic acid. These nutrients help with brain development, bone growth, and overall development.
The easiest way to feed this to your baby is to hard boil the egg and just use the yolk. You can crumble it and let them try to eat it or you can just drop the yolk into the puree you are making. My little one loved it.
During the first few years of life your baby needs two critical minerals: zinc and iron. These minerals are crazy important because they do things like support neurological development, build a strong immune system, and encourage overall growth. So where is zinc and iron found in our food supply? In animal foods, like: beef, lamb, egg yolk, organ meat, chicken, fish, and fresh dairy.
Feeding a little one meat can seem daunting, but don’t avoid it just for this reason. If you are doing purees it is very easy to just add into the blender with the other items. If you are starting with more of a finger food approach then start with slow roasted or shredded meats. A crockpot is a great way to accomplish this… maybe start by making you family a roast and giving baby small soft pieces.
Let them try them all and explore the different flavors. I would try your best to get them organic and locally grown. This will really ensure that the nutrient content is as high as possible. Additionally, if you can buy them in season they will be even more nutrient dense. The best way to accomplish all of this is to grab a stroller and head to a local farmer’s market. If you are only doing purees then just steam the veggies and puree. If you are doing more of a finger food approach then try sautéing them or oven roasting them… just make enough for the grown-up’s dinner too. Don’t forget to add in your fat: butter, olive oil, or coconut oil.
Fruits are great for our kids, and most kids really love them. This is really their first exposure to sugar, and fruits will taste very sweet to them. Don’t overdo it here. If you give your kids lots of sweet things they won’t really be interested in things that aren’t as sweet. You can also stick to less sugary fruits like all the berries and citrus fruits.
Grain (aka Oatmeal Cereal)
Okay hold on for some boring talk… Your body makes an enzyme called amylase that breaks down grains to absorb the nutrients and to move it through the digestive tract. Enzymes help us break down all kinds of foods so that our bodies can use the nutrients they contain. Another example would be being lactose intolerant, your body doesn’t make the enzyme lactase to break down milk (lactose). Make sense?
Baby’s do not make the enzyme amylase (the one that breaks down grains) until they are at least a year old. This means that when we feed our little ones grains they basically have no way of digesting and/or absorbing the nutrients in those grains. This causes all kinds of problems like undigested food passing through our digestive tract… leading to constipation, gas, even bloating. How do you know when you baby is making amylase? Their molar teeth will be fully developed. Isn’t that cool nature gives us all kinds of signs.
What are some of your favorite first foods for your little one?