The #TBT Debate: The Best Foods For Weaning Your Baby

We look back on a 2015 piece from nutritional therapist Alice Fotheringham. How do you think weaning recipes have changed over the years? Do you have a go to recipe? We’d love to hear your weaning stories and recipes!

 

Weaning is such an important time and I remember so well the excitement and nerves that come with learning how to wean, and what things to start with. I came across Cat Gazzoli’s website The Food Education Foundation’ that’s filled with the most delicious looking recipes for babies and children. I asked nutritional therapist Alice Fotheringham at The Food Education Foundation to write this piece for us on introducing tastes and textures, great first foods, together with a few mouthwatering seasonal recipes. Alice has also added some wonderful tips for things to think about during mealtimes, and also explains a little a bout baby-led weaning and tips on cooking purees. This is a really great read.

If your little one is around 6 months you might be starting to think about introducing solids alongside their usual breast or formula milk.

This is an exciting, and messy stage in their development, but making food yourself doesn’t have to be complicated, and has many benefits. Not only do you know exactly what you are giving your baby, but making your own food can also be far more cost efficient.

This time between 6 and 9 months is a wonderful opportunity for your baby to enjoy the exciting taste adventure of trying new and unfamiliar textures and flavours.  However it is also a chance for you to help shape their ongoing relationship with food, as well providing them with a range of nutrients to support their ongoing development.

Great first foods

There really is no one best food to start with; however simple single fruits or vegetables are a good place to begin.

Good examples include:

  • steamed apple or ripe pear
  • no cook or soft foods: ripe peach, banana or avocado (yummy mixed together)
  • steamed or baked root vegetables such as carrot, sweet potato, butternut squash or parsnip.

These can all either be steamed or baked and either pureed or given in chunks big enough for babies to hold onto.

After first tastes

After offering those first tastes, it is good to keep offering a wide variety of flavours early on, when they are more willing to try new foods. It is important not to stay just on fruit and vegetables however, but include fats and protein into their diet. Unlike adults, baby’s need a high fat, low fibre diet, so nutrient dense foods such as avocado, oily fish, well cooked eggs and cheese are wonderful to introduce soon after you have tried simple fruit and vegetables.

Great foods to include soon after first tastes include: soft, well cooked meat, fish, poultry, pulses (peas, beans and lentils), cereals such as rice, oats and wheat, and full fat dairy such as yoghurt (sugar free) and cheese.

Don’t be put off if a food is refused or they screw up their face in response to a stronger flavour. This is all very new to them, research is coming out to suggest sometimes it can be the strong smell of a food that can put them off! Some foods take up to twelve times to be accepted, so simply take it away and try another time.

Things to think about at mealtimes

  • Try offering small amounts of food before milk feeds at meal times, but avoid trying new foods if your baby is very hungry. Don’t be surprised if the baby initially spits the food out and appears to dislike it. New tastes and textures take a little getting used to, but babies soon learn to love a variety of flavours.
  • Always stay with babies during meals and never leave them alone, as they may choke.
  • Never force babies to eat. Allow them to go at their own pace, to handle the food and start to feed themselves as soon as they wish.
  • Always remember to allow the food to cool and then test it yourself to make sure it’s the right temperature before giving it to your baby.

Remember: Don’t add salt, sugar or stock cubes to your baby’s food or cooking water in the first year.

What is ‘baby-led weaning’?

When starting to introduce solids you can offer foods in a pureed form on a spoon, or avoid the puree and let them feed themselves. In baby-led weaning, food is not given to the baby on a spoon at all. Instead, babies are encouraged to explore for themselves all the food on offer to them and to eat whatever they can get into their mouths independently.

Go with what you feel comfortable with, try a bit of both or stick with one method, there are lots of websites and books with recipe ideas for both ways. Experiment and see what you and your baby enjoy the most. Be prepared for mess with both ways, but food is great fun and your baby will enjoy this exciting, messy exploration of trying new tastes and textures.

Cooking purees: batch cooking and quick ideas

The easiest way to make your own purees is to wash, peel (optional, some skin is tougher and harder for babies to digest unless thoroughly cooked), chop and steam whichever fruit or vegetable you’re using until it’s soft. Be careful not to overcook as the food will lose its taste, texture and some nutrients.

It really is much easier to batch cook a whole bunch of carrots or bag of sweet potatoes than one individual fruit or vegetable. If you need a quick meal then and there, great no cook purees such as avocado, banana or ripe peach are fantastic, simply mash with a fork or blend in a tall jug with a hand blender. Alternatively spread some nut butter or full fat cream cheese on a rolled out piece of bread or finger of toast.

For larger batches of simple purees you can then freeze, simply fill your steamer or pan with fruit or veg and once soft you can blend in a blender or food processor. A great way to batch cook as quickly and efficiently as possible is to make up simple purees such as apple, carrot, or sweet potato, you can add a sprinkle of herbs or spices such as rosemary or cinnamon if you want to jazz them up a bit (babies can have these herbs and spices from six months). Once you’ve made the puree allow it to cool before freezing. You can use ice cube trays (just make sure you cover them so they don’t get contaminated from other food or get freezer burn.

If using ice cube trays, once frozen you can pop the cubes into labelled freezer bags with the name and date and pop a list on your freezer of what you have put in so you know what you have. This way you have a ready supply of different frozen purees that you can mix and match once your baby is happy with single-ingredient purees and you want to try different blends.

The simple purees are great to mix together, but also you can add grated cheese, cooked lentils, or flaked fish into the vegetable purees once your baby is ready to take lumps. You can also add the fruit purees to porridge or full fat yoghurt as a delicious breakfast which has added protein and complex carbohydrates and fibre.

Tip: When re-heating, you must make sure the food is piping hot, and then allow to cool before giving to your baby and do not reheat foods more than once and never refreeze uneaten food

Recipes

Great seasonal fruit & veg this August & September include: blackberries, apricot, nectarine, apple, beetroot, broccoli, broad beans, carrot, squash and courgette. All wonderful foods for your baby.

First Basic Apple Finger Food or Puree

APPLE-2-LR

Apples are ideal first fruits as they are easy to digest and unlikely to cause allergies.

 Ingredients

2 sweet eating apples such as Pink Lady or Royal Gala

75ml water

For adults: cook an extra few apples at the same time and before pureeing set aside some of the cooked apple pieces and keep to mix through your porridge or cereal at breakfast or mix with yoghurt and a sprinkle or cinnamon for a sweet fix.

Method

  1. Peel, halve, core and chop the apples. If making finger food, chop into large chunks that a baby can hold onto. Put into a heavy based saucepan with the water, cover and cook over a low heat for 6 to 8 minutes until the apple is tender. If pureeing ensure cooked through until soft.
  2. Puree in a food processor or place in a bowl and use a hand blender.
  1. You could also steam the apples for 7 to 8 minutes until tender.

Preparation: 3 minutes

Cooking: 8 minutes

Once cooked keeps in the fridge sealed for around 3 days.

Once cooled freeze for up to 3 months.

Butternut Squash and Apricot Puree 

APRICOT-LR

Ingredients

½ small butternut squash

Drizzle of olive oil

1 ripe apricot, quartered and de-pitted, or 3 dried apricots (the brown ones that are unsulphered)

For Adults: I cook the other half of butternut squash at the same time with a few chilli flakes or fresh herbs (making sure not to give the chilli half to baby!) and chop into salads or serve warm with sour cream or crumbled feta).

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 ⁰C fan/ 350⁰F/ Gas Mark 4. Cut the whole butternut squash in half lengthways, scoop out the seeds and place in a roasting tray. Drizzle over a little olive oil and roast one half in the oven (roasting the other half if doubling the recipe or cooking for yourself) for 25-30 minutes until soft.
  2. Once cooked, scoop out the flesh of the butternut squash into a bowl or food processor. Add the ripe apricot and blend to form a smooth puree. It is quite a thick puree this, so add a little water, breast or formula milk if you want to make a smoother, looser puree.

Prep 5 minutes

Cook 25 minutes

Best for Baby 6-9 months

Makes 4 portions

Once cooked keeps in the fridge sealed for around 3 days.

Once cooled freeze for up to 3 months.

Tip from a The Food Education Foundation mum…

Lizzie, mum to Beatrice 8 months: When I started weaning my daughter, food would go absolutely everywhere apart from her mouth and it made such a mess; I did not enjoy it! But after speaking to other mums in the same situation I realized that I was making both of us stressed around eating. So now I try and embrace it, I just put a great big mat down under her and put her in a craft bib that covers her arms and neck – and she loves meal times! She has a great time mushing and touching and gumming the food. I know she is getting a lot of what she needs from her milk so I can enjoy just getting her to try a whole variety of foods and not panic that she doesn’t always eat three times a day.

By Alice Fotheringham, nutritional therapist at The Food Education Foundation.

Alice-&-Bea-LR

The UK charity The Food Education Foundation, founded by Cat Gazzoli, works with the NCT to bring fun, informative workshops and online support to help parents introduce new foods and feed the whole family.   For more information on the classes as well as recipes, strategies and tips see www.foodeducationfoundation.org.uk

About The Author

Alice Fotheringham
Nutritional Chef

Alice Fotheringham is a registered nutritional therapist and chef who specialises in infant nutrition. Practicing privately in London Alice is also a co-founder of the social enterprise Piccolo, an organic Mediterranean baby food brand, and director of the Food Education Foundation, a London charity that provides food education in the early years.

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