In the U.S. for many years the go-to for baby’s first food has been an instant white rice cereal. While there is nothing wrong with rice per se, white rice in particular has been stripped of many of its beneficial nutrients, including fiber, Vitamin E, magnesium, and a host of other trace minerals the body relies upon to function optimally. What is left is essentially a simple carbohydrate that quickly turns to glucose, resulting in spikes in blood sugar. It’s not exactly the nutritional powerhouse you’d use to start a child off with success. There are even some theories to suggest that white rice cereal plays a key role in the obesity epidemic omnipresent in the news the past several decades.

Best Whole Foods for First Foods

So what to eat instead? Virtually any cooked or soft fruit or vegetable is a great place to start. Avocados and cooked sweet potatoes have an ideal texture and are mild in flavor, often making for a pleasant first food experience. Mashing and mixing your chosen food with breast milk, sharing a first meal in a family setting, is a beautiful way to begin a lifelong ritual of healthy eating.

As your child is able to enjoy more variety, a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables is ideal in teaching their bodies to appreciate these natural wonders. The foods they try before they begin to walk are the ones they will most likely reach for the rest of their lives.

A study of fossilized teeth was able to determine that Neanderthals also began incorporating solid foods into their children’s diets around 6 months of age, similar to contemporary practices. In many cultures around the world, babies simply eat a gentler version of whatever their parents are eating, including soup broth, softened vegetables, and even pre-chewed meat. While this last part may sound unappealing, studies have shown that contact with a mother’s saliva has the ability to greatly strengthen a child’s immune system.

Dr. Greene’s
Quick Guide to Starting Solids!

As far as pre-packaged baby food goes, there is no physiological need for it. In fact, the more natural foods babies try early on, the more they’ll like later in life. They are even less likely to develop food allergies as a result of this early exposure to an array of healthy options.

Part of feeding is teaching children what to like, so don’t hold back – exploratory eating today creates the courageous eaters of tomorrow!

For more insight into starting solid foods, listen to our podcast.

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Alan Greene MD contributor