Must-start foods for your baby (slash foods everyone should eat)

Heading back to nutrition for this post. Here is a brief starting list of foods I find healthy for babies, kids and adults alike. Included are some preparation tips and reasons to convince your loved ones to eat more of these healthy foods. There are several first foods I am not covering in this post, including healthy fatty foods, lentils, or nuts and wheat, which were covered in previous posts.

Cauliflower and broccoli. I always tell patients that my favorite family of veggies is the cruciferous family, named for its four crossing leaves. Included in this family are Brussels sprouts, arugula, cabbage, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower. Everyone needs the vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant power of cruciferous veggies at least once, if not a few times a week. Studies in animals and in the lab show that chemicals found in cruciferous foods have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and even anti-microbial properties. Human studies are mixed, but there are definitely some positive ones supporting your cruciferous intake!

For babies, you can steam and puree your cauliflower and/or broccoli. As kids get older, you can cook your veggies until they are well done and then cut them into finger food sizes. Try adding cruciferous foods to stir fries, pasta dishes, or be adventurous and go Indian style, gobi aloo (mmm!). Flavorful foods may be more likely to be eaten by you, and then you can model for your kids.

Pureed cauliflower can be mixed in with other foods, like sweet potatoes or avocado. Older kids may love mashed potatoes with a secret ingredient of cauliflower…

Sweet potatoes. This is a no-brainer. Steam up some sweet potatoes and then mash or blend to get a nice puree. As kids get older and can pick up finger foods, you can cube and steam them, and your child can pick up this sweet, yet healthy snack.

Health benefits: sweet potatoes and other yellow vegetables are full of carotenoids which have antioxidant properties. Carotenoids are even found in colostrum, early breastmilk, and are thought to aid in brain and eye development.

Berries. Many parents are hesitant to start berries with their children. For parents concerned about the development of allergies, refer to my post on the topic, which states that there is no good data supporting the avoidance of foods to reduce allergies (but there is some really good evidence supporting introduction of foods early!). If you ask me, berries are rich in antioxidants, full of anti-inflammatory flavonoids, and a must-eat for all ages! Recently, a study in Circulation showed cardio-protective effects (less heart attacks!) in women who consumed strawberries and blueberries.

Berries are easy to feed to babies because they are so soft. They can be mashed and mixed into oatmeal or given as a finger food as an infant grows older. You can cut the berries to a size your child can handle.

Tomatoes. Full of lycopene, another carotenoid, tomato consumption has been associated with reduced cancer risk. Tomatoes can easily be cooked into sauces or pureed and blended with other foods, like carrots or sweet potatoes. They can also be chopped and cooked with soups, stews, beans and lentils.

As infants get older, tomatoes make a great finger food. If your child has trouble with the peel, peel the tomato first and then cut it into manageable pieces.

This is it for now. I will post more foods in the future. Meanwhile, do lots of good hand-washing to avoid all the circulating viruses!