Watching your baby taste real food for the first time is one of the most exciting milestones for a new parent to witness. Your baby’s life suddenly becomes more fun and interesting (not to mention messy!), and your daily routine as a parent changes too. But starting solids can also be confusing - especially for first-time parents.
Should you start solids at four or six months? Should you only serve purees or should you jump right into finger foods like your friend did? And what about common allergens like peanut butter and eggs?
You’ve likely heard many conflicting and confusing messages around first foods, which can be frustrating. Luckily, registered dietitians like myself and organizations such as the Egg Farmers of Canada are helping new parents navigate the confusing messages around starting solids since the guidelines have recently changed...for the better!
The new infant feeding guidelines, issued by Health Canada, the Canadian Pediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada all recommend introducing solids around six months of age. Usually, this is when your baby shows signs of readiness such as sitting up on her own and showing interest in solids. Iron-rich foods should be introduced right from the get-go, as your baby's iron needs increase around this time. Iron is an important mineral for brain health and red blood cell production. Although babies have a reserve built up from being in the womb, at about six months it starts to deplete and a daily dose of iron-rich solid foods is needed to keep your baby physically and developmentally healthy.
It’s now recommended that babies be introduced to a variety of textures within the first few months of starting solids—spoon-feeding purees is no longer the one and only way. In fact, you can jump right in with soft finger foods if you feel comfortable with it, just like I did with my daughter.
The new guidelines also suggest that parents need not delay the introduction of common allergens such as whole, well-cooked eggs, peanuts, and fish. These foods may now be introduced as early as six months because we now know that early introduction can help to prevent food allergies later on. My daughter's first food was a hard-boiled egg cut into quarters. She loved it and has enjoyed eggs regularly ever since.
As a mom and a dietician, I love that eggs have six grams of high-quality protein and 14 essential nutrients. They are also a natural source of choline, a nutrient that plays an important role in brain development. Not only are eggs one of the most nutritious foods on the planet, they are also extremely versatile, economical, and easy to prepare. They have a mild texture and taste that babies love and they are easy for them to self-feed, chew and digest. Eggs, in fact, are an excellent, yet largely overlooked first food option for babies.
When my kids were babies, we would often make baked poached eggs (crack whole eggs into greased or non-stick muffin tins and bake at 375F until hard boiled) because they made for such an easy, nutritious meal or snack. I will definitely be doing this again when baby #3 starts solids.
Here are three more of our favourite egg recipes that babies can pick up and eat themselves starting at six months of age:
These mini snacks are great for on-the-go or for a quick meal. They also freeze very well.
6 whole eggs
1/3 cup water, breast milk, formula or milk, depending on age of baby (whole cow’s milk should not be introduced until 9 months)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup carrots, grated
1 small zucchini, grated
1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 375F and grease a 24-cup mini muffin tin.
Whisk eggs, water or milk and garlic powder together.
Add grated carrot and zucchini and whisk until combined.
Using a tablespoon measure, spoon mixture into muffin tins.
Sprinkle grated cheese on top of each muffin.
Place in the oven and bake for 20-minutes.
Remove from oven and allow 10-minutes to cool.
Makes 24 mini muffins
Made with ground meat, oats, eggs, and veggies, these meatballs are a finger food your baby will love. They also freeze well and make for great leftovers!
1lb of lean ground meat (I usually use extra lean ground beef or bison)
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup grated or chopped veggies (I use a combo of grated carrot, chopped spinach, and grated zucchini)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp garlic powder
other dried herbs (optional)
Preheat oven to 400F and line or grease a baking sheet.
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well with clean hands.
Form into 24 medium-sized balls and place on a lined, greased, or non-stick baking sheet.
Place in the oven and bake for 12-minutes, or until they reach an internal temperature of 170F.
Makes 24 meatballs
These muffins are moist and delicious. They are a healthy option for breakfast (or any meal) as well as snacks.
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup whole milk, or unsweetened almond milk (whole milk shouldn’t be introduced until at least 9 months)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar - optional (you may leave this out, especially for babies younger than 9 months)
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
3 small peeled apples or pears, chopped finely
Preheat oven to 375F and grease a muffin tin (or mini muffin tin).
In a large bowl, mix together eggs, bananas, milk, packed brown sugar, butter, and vanilla until blended well.
Mix oats, cinnamon, baking powder and salt together in a separate bowl.
Combine wet and dry ingredients. Add chopped apple or pear and combine until well blended.
Fill muffin tins almost to the top (they don't expand too much).
Bake for 25 mins or until golden brown.
Makes 12 regular muffins or 24 mini muffins