Before your baby turns one, he will go through 12 months of very rapid growth. His nutritional needs will be constantly changing in this period, too.
By the time he is ready for solids, most nutrition and calories will still be supplied by formula or breast milk. But the nutrition he is getting from solid foods will be becoming more and more important every day until about 9-10 months when most babies start getting as much, if not more, nutrition and calories from solid foods as from formula or breast milk.
To prepare your baby for this very gradual but major transition, it makes sense to introduce nutrient-dense foods into his diet from early on.
To learn more about how to start your baby on solids, check my posts on when to start solids, how to use the mixed approach (purees+finger foods), pros and cons of Baby Led Weaning, how to choose and prepare finger foods and what to expect in terms of feeding as your baby turns into a toddler.
If you would like to get the whole framework and all the steps to start your baby on solids using the mixed approach, check my Stress-Free Solids program – it’s completely online and has videos of babies eating both finger foods and purees, in addition to recipes, schedules and the latest scientific advice on introducing allergens.
This post is about the important nutrients your baby needs and 14 nutritional superstars or superfoods for your baby you can start incorporating into his diet right now.
Protein suppliers our bodies’ structural blocks and it is extremely important for growth, development, and immunity. From about 6-7 months babies need a good source of protein in the diet in addition to the protein they are getting from breast milk or formula.
Iron helps supply oxygen to cells and it is especially important during rapid growth. It also plays a vital role in brain development. To make sure your baby is getting enough iron, offer some iron-rich foods twice a day from about 6-7 months, especially if you are breastfeeding. The formula is fortified with iron. Best solid food sources are meat, beans, leafy greens and fortified foods.
Iron-rich finger foods for your baby
Zinc is crucial for maintaining immune function, cognitive development, cell growth, and repair. It is usually found in iron-rich foods and if your baby is not a vegan or vegetarian it is easy to meet his needs. If you are formula feeding your baby, it helps to know that many formulas are fortified with zinc.
Fats should not be restricted in the first two years of life. Try incorporating some fat like butter, oil, nut or seed butter or avocado into most solid foods your baby is eating to boost his brain development and help with vitamin absorption.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) are Omega 3 acids that are especially beneficial for brain and eye development. The best sources of DHA and EPA are cold-water fatty fish like salmon, tuna and sardines, fortified eggs, fortified milk and breast milk.
ALA comes from plant foods like nuts and seeds and their oils. It needs an additional metabolic step in order to be absorbed by the body. If your baby is vegan or vegetarian, he may need supplementation to meet his needs.
Vitamin D is important for calcium absorption, immunity, as well as reducing the risk for chronic and autoimmune conditions. It is not very common in dietary sources unless foods are fortified.
The best way to get enough vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight. If your baby is not getting enough sunlight or is dark-skinned, he may need supplementation. American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that all breastfed babies get a daily supplementation of 400IU of vitamin D.
Vitamin C – improves iron absorption and supports the immune system. Most fruit and vegetables contain plenty of vitamin C.
Vitamin A – is important for proper vision and healthy skin. Dairy products, orange and dark green vegetables and fruit are all good sources.
14 superfoods, or nutritional superstars, and how to incorporate them into your baby’s diet.
14 SuperFoods for your baby and how to incorporate them into his diet
|Avocado||Fat, vitamin C||
|Beans and lentils||Protein, iron, zinc||
|Butter||Fats, including DHA and EPA||
|Cereal, fortified||Iron, zinc||
|Dark leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, collard greens)||Vitamin C, vitamin A, iron||
|Eggs||Fat, protein, vitamin D, vitamin A, zinc, iron||
|Full fat yogurt||Protein, fat, vitamin D||
|Full fat cheese||Protein, fat, vitamin D||
|Nut and seed, as butters and powder||Protein, fats, including ALA||
|Oils||Fats, including ALA||
|Orange fruit and vegetables (carrots, pumpkin, mango, sweet potato)||Vitamin C, vitamin A||
|Red meat such as beef, pork and lamb||Protein, fat, iron and zinc||
|Salmon, tuna, sardines and other fatty fish||Fats including DHA and EPA, protein||
|Tofu||Iron, protein, fat||
What do you think about this list?
Did anything surprise you?
Are there any nutritional superstars that are not here? Please share in the comments!
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