We spoke with infant nutrition expert Alice Fotheringham, at Piccolo, who explains the importance of introducing vegetables in weaning. You can start introducing solids at around six months, but you do not need to introduce new foods in any specific order.
People all over the world choose a wide variety of different foods as first foods for their baby, but there is no research to say one way is better than another. The most important thing is variety of taste and texture. Weaning is a key time for the development of taste preferences and ongoing relationships with food, during this time they tend to be more accepting of new foods.
Alice Fotheringham, infant nutrition expert at Piccolo, the organic baby food brand that draws inspiration from the Mediterranean approach to health and well being, and gives 10% of its profits to food education, talks about introducing your little ones to vegetables.
It is generally advised not to offer possibly allergen foods first, but other than that, whether it is a grain, legume, fruit or vegetable, or even meat- it really doesn’t matter.
However, what does seem to matter is that offering certain foods like vegetables, that tend to have less sweet flavours (apart from the root vegetables), may take a few more times to be accepted, and that we shouldn’t be put off from offering these foods at a later time again. It can take up to twelve times to introduce a new flavour to your baby, so do not be put off re-introducing a food even if it has been rejected that third or fourth time.
Babies have an inherent liking for sweeter foods so will naturally accept sweeter fruit and vegetables over the more bitter leaves such as spinach or broccoli (of course some babies will love these from the off, babies are all different). Parents shouldn’t give up, as sometimes babies need to taste flavours a few times before they get used to them. It could be that you offer a food several times over a few weeks. However, if your baby does not accept a food at first, never cajole or distract them into eating a food. They may just not be hungry, simply try another time.
There is a growing trend to focus on vegetables as some of the first foods with a real focus on getting a wide range of different vegetables into your baby’s diet in the first few months. This is a very positive way to introduce foods, as vegetables come in a range of wonderful flavours, textures and colours – providing a huge range of nutrients such as fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Tips and recipe ideas for introducing vegetables to your little one
- You may find that your baby pulls faces or odd expressions when she tries a food for the first time. It doesn’t mean she isn’t happy with it. She may just be registering her surprise at the new taste or texture
- You can mix and mash fruit and vegetables, but it’s also a good idea to give ingredients separately so baby’s know what a more bitter or savoury flavour tastes like. Try giving steamed broccoli spears for them to gum on, or whizz up some kale or spinach and peas together.
- Cauliflower florets are delicious roasted in a little olive oil and lemon juice for you and your baby
- Frozen veg like peas, spinach and beans are great last minute vegetables to try with your little one. Whizz up some defrosted spinach and mix into a little scrambled egg or make a cooked spinach and pea dip with a little yoghurt or crème fraiche and mint
- Fried courgette strips in a little olive oil are a really tasty way to introduce courgette.
- Bake a sweet potato in the oven or microwave and just scoop out a little of the flesh.
Ideas for vegetables in weaning to try
Cooked vegetables such as parsnip, potato, sweet potato, butternut squash, carrot, green beans, spinach, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, kale
Getting the whole family involved
Packing a variety of greens into your little one’s diet is also a great way to up your whole family’s intake. Many nutritionists and researchers actually believe that we should be aiming higher than the five a day mantra.
- Batch roast vegetables: Line a roasting dish with foil, cut several sweet potato, carrot and parsnip into long batons (as many as you can fit into a roasting dish). Drizzle over a generous glug of olive oil, and sprinkle over a couple of teaspoons of dried or fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme or sage. Roast for 35 mins on 180C. Perfect with a meal or as finger food snack. They last several days in the fridge and can be added to most meals and enjoyed by everyone.
- Dip it. Not only are raw veg cut into batons served with dips a great and fun way to give vegetables to your family (and good to add to the grown up lunch box as well), don’t miss a trick and add more vegetables to the dip itself. Whizz a cooked beetroot or olives into shop bought hummus, or puree cooked peas and spinach into cream cheese for a green dip.
- Put vegetables into a small bowl as a ‘starter’ while you get the rest of the food ready. Even some cut carrots and cucumber or steamed broccoli. Everything is more appealing when it’s in a small bowl, even for us.
- Quick veg and egg packed meals: omelettes, frittatas and fritters are all quick one pan dishes that can be whipped up using frozen, canned or grated veg like sweetcorn, peas, courgette or carrot mixed with egg and a little cheese.
Visit www.mylittlepiccolo.com for more information
Photography credit © Alejandro Tamagno – 2016