Providing proper nutrition during your child’s first year is crucial for their growth and development. The first year is a time of rapid growth and development. Babies need a variety of nutrients like proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals to support their growing bodies and brains. It’s important to introduce new foods gradually, starting with smooth purees and progressing to mashed and finger foods as your baby’s skills develop. Consulting your pediatrician can help ensure you’re catering to all of your baby’s nutritional needs.
When preparing meals for your infant, keep in mind a few key tips: avoid added sugars and salt, cook vegetables thoroughly, cut foods into manageable pieces, and watch your baby for any signs of allergies or intolerances. While feeding a baby can feel overwhelming, having a rotation of simple, healthy recipes will make mealtimes easy and enjoyable for both you and your little one.
Here are six easy meal ideas to get you started:
Soft, Boiled Chicken
One of the simplest foods you can make for your baby is soft, boiled chicken. Chicken provides high-quality protein, which supports growth, and iron, which aids in brain development.
To make this easy meal, start by buying boneless, skinless chicken thighs and patting them dry. If you’re not sure about the boiling process, here’s a helpful guide on how to boil chicken thighs. Season the chicken lightly with just a pinch of salt and pepper. Then, place the thighs in a medium pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes. The chicken is done when it’s opaque throughout and shreds very easily with a fork.
Remove the pot from the heat and let the chicken cool until it’s warm. Shred the cooked chicken into long, thin strands using two forks. For younger babies just starting on solid food, use a fork to mash the chicken into smaller chunks. This makes it easier for them to handle in their mouths and swallow safely.
Serve the shredded or mashed chicken on its own as a great first protein. You can also pair it with soft cooked vegetables like sweet potato or butternut squash. The soft chicken provides key nutrition without too much flavor or texture at first.
Once your baby has tried single-ingredient purees and is ready for flavor combinations, applesauce oats make for an easy, iron-rich meal. The applesauce adds natural sweetness without any refined sugar.
Start by cooking old-fashioned oats in water or breastmilk until they reach a soft, creamy texture. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cooking the oats for 5-10 minutes while stirring occasionally. Then, remove the pot from the heat.
Let the oatmeal cool slightly before mixing in unsweetened applesauce. Use a ratio of about 1/4 cup applesauce per 1/2 cup oats. Stir to combine into a sweet apple-cinnamon flavor. For extra nutrition, you can also mix in ground flax or chia seeds.
The applesauce gives the oats a boost of vitamin C, which helps absorb the iron. It also adds pectin fiber and potassium. This simple combo makes a nourishing breakfast or snack. Spoon some into a reusable pouch for on-the-go eating or serve it warm in a bowl.
Quinoa is a powerhouse grain that provides protein, fiber, iron, and magnesium. It makes a great first food for babies that’s easy to swallow and digest.
To make quinoa pudding, rinse the quinoa well and combine with water or milk in a small pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the quinoa is tender and the liquid is absorbed.
Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Then mix in pureed ripe fruit like banana or mango, or applesauce. The fruit puree gives it a sweetness and a creamy texture, making it pudding-like.
For babies just starting solids, introduce the quinoa first. Make sure they tolerate it well before mixing in other flavors. Quinoa’s mild taste lets the natural sweetness of fruit shine. This nourishing pudding provides excellent nutrition for growing babies.
Banana Bread Oatmeal
Bananas are a perfect first food for babies – soft, sweet, and packed with potassium and fiber. Combining bananas with oatmeal makes for a delicious, comforting breakfast.
To make this banana-bread-flavored oatmeal, start by mashing a ripe banana with a fork until mostly smooth. Then, cook old-fashioned oats in water or milk until soft and creamy.
Remove the oats from the heat and stir in the mashed banana. Add a dash of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg for that banana bread spice flavor. The banana provides natural sweetness without any added sugar.
For babies just starting solids, serve the banana and oats separately at first. Mash the banana into a thin puree that’s easy to swallow. Once your baby masters swallowing smooth purees, combine the banana and oats for an enjoyable breakfast.
This banana bread oatmeal provides potassium, fiber, iron, and vitamin B6 for growing babies. Let cool completely before serving to be safe.
Scrambled Egg Yolk with Cheese
Eggs can provide so many important nutrients for your baby, including protein, choline, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. For babies under one year, serve just the egg yolk, which is easier to digest.
Crack 1 egg and separate the yolk from the white. Whisk the yolk in a small bowl. Add a pinch of shredded cheese, like cheddar or Swiss, for extra flavor and nutrition.
Heat a skillet over medium-low heat. Add a teaspoon of butter or oil. Pour in the egg yolk and cheese and gently scramble using a silicone spatula until set, which should be in about 1-2 minutes.
Allow the soft scrambled egg to cool before cutting it into bite-sized pieces or strips for finger food practice. Make sure the egg is cool enough for the baby’s sensitive mouth.
The egg yolk with cheese provides protein, healthy fats, vitamin D, choline, and B vitamins – all key nutrients for your growing baby.
Parsnip and Pea Puree
Parsnips are highly underrated veggies with a naturally sweet, nutty flavor that babies tend to love. Pairing parsnips with peas makes for a smooth, creamy puree combo full of nutrition.
Peel and chop parsnips into 1-inch pieces. Place in a steamer basket over boiling water, and steam until very tender when pierced with a fork, which should take about 10-15 minutes. Steam frozen peas separately just until warmed through, about 5 minutes.
Transfer the cooked parsnips and peas to a blender or food processor. Puree, adding small splashes of cooking liquid as needed, until smooth. Season with a pinch of nutmeg for a lovely flavor.
The parsnip-pea puree provides fiber, vitamin C, iron, and folate. For babies just starting solids, this thin puree will be easy to swallow. As your baby’s skills progress, mash the parsnip and peas with a fork for a chunkier texture, which is great for practicing chewing skills.
Preparing nutritious meals for your baby may feel daunting as a new parent, but there are endless quick, and simple options. Focus on single-ingredient foods at first, then start combining flavors and textures for well-rounded nutrition. Planning weekly menus and batch cooking on weekends makes it easy to have healthy homemade options on hand. Following your baby’s lead and watching for any signs of allergies or intolerances is key. With a little practice, you’ll gain confidence in providing easy, delicious meals that nourish your baby as they grow.