Helping baby transition to eating safe and healthy solid foods

By Aimee Crant-Oksa M.S., R.D.

A fter your baby has successfully mastered eating basic solid foods, such as cereals and the occasional soft fruit or vegetable, you can slowly begin to introduce a wider variety of nutritional choices. For many children, this process starts at about nine to 12 months of age.This stage is a perfect time to add natural, off-the-vine fresh foods that are free of added sugar and preservatives.Adding new flavors and aromas to your baby’s menu early on will help develop favorite healthy food choices that will carry on later in life.

Where to start

But where do you begin? First, I strongly recommend parents establish a positive environment for mealtime success by dining together as often as possible. Research suggests having dinner together as a family on a regular basis promotes positive effects on the emotional and physical development of children. When young children see their family enjoying food, they will be more inclined to join in on the fun. Start slowly by adding one new food at a time and wait a few days before introducing another option.Watch for any allergic reactions such as diarrhea, rash or vomiting. If any of these occur, stop using the new food, or any derivative of it, and consult with your pediatrician. I also recommend avoiding foods that rank high on the potential allergy list, such as eggs, peanut products and fish, until after the child’s first birthday. Keep in mind, meats and vegetables contain more nutrients per serving than fruits and cereals. A baby should be consuming about 4 ounces of food at each meal, or the amount in one small jar of strained baby food.

Making your own fresh baby food is quick and easy.All you need is a blender or food processor or simply mash softer foods with a fork. Fresh foods should be cooked with no added salt or seasoning. Though you can feed your baby raw bananas (mashed), most other fruits and vegetables should be cooked until they are soft. Refrigerate leftovers promptly or divide servings into ice cube trays and freeze for future use.

Foods to avoid

Do not give your baby any food that requires chewing at this age. Be especially cautious of any foods that can be choking hazards —? hot dogs, nuts and seeds, chunks of meat or cheese, whole grapes, popcorn, chunks of peanut butter, raw vegetables, and cubed fruit, such as apple.

If you have questions about your child’s nutrition, including concerns about eating too much or too little, talk with your pediatrician or take advantage of educational seminars focused on baby and children’s nutrition. CentraState

Medical Center’s Health Awareness Center offers a range of helpful nutrition programs for children of all ages, such as “Kids in Control? Nutrition and Fitness.”Visit center/weight-management for a full roster of classes or call 732- 308-0570.

CentraState Medical Center offers one-on-one nutritional counseling on an outpatient basis to serve a variety of medical conditions and lifestyle changes, including pediatric obesity.To speak with a registered dietician, call 732-294-2766.

If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, register to attend the Spring Baby Fair on April 25 at 5:30 p.m.

Aimee Crant-Oksa M.S., R.D., is a registered dietician and clinical nutrition manager at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold.