How to be sure baby gets essential nutrients

December 12, 2014

For the first six months of life, your baby should be well sustained on breast milk (plus vitamin D) and/or infant formula. Health Canada recommends six months of age is the time to start feeding your baby solid foods, but be sure to consult your doctor.

Until 2014 Health Canada recommended feeding your baby iron fortified infant cereal first, followed by vegetables, fruit, then milk and meats. It turns out this was based more on tradition than science, and the guidelines have changed.

How to be sure baby gets essential nutrients

Now the recommendation is for parents to start baby off with iron-rich solid foods, such as:

  • Well-cooked ground, mashed or shredded meat
  • Mashed beans, chickpeas, and/or lentils
  • Eggs
  • Iron-fortified infant cereals
  • Avocado
  • Baked potato
  • Broccoli
  • Prunes
  • Spinach

Iron deficiency is a common and serious nutritional problem among children worldwide, including in Canada. Iron is critical for brain development and a lack of the mineral can lead to thought-processing and motor deficiencies. Be sure your child gets plenty.

Once baby is reliably noshing on iron-rich foods, all other food groups can be introduced next (including vegetables, fruit, grains, cheese, and yogurt), and in a variety of textures.

Yes, the old advice of starting baby on only pureed foods has changed. At six months, babies can handle a variety of soft textures and soft finger foods, such as:

  • Pieces of soft-cooked vegetables and fruits
  • Soft, ripe fruit such as banana
  • Ground or mashed cooked boneless fish and poultry
  • Grated cheese
  • Toast

These recommendations include some of the most common allergens as part of "first foods" – including egg, milk, peanuts, seafood, sesame, soy, tree nuts and wheat. If you have a family history of allergies (or other concerns), consult your doctor before feeding your baby these foods. You may also wish to introduce potential allergens only every two days so that if there is a reaction, you'll know which food was the culprit.

Remember to never give honey to a child younger than 12 months. Also, homogenized milk is not generally recommend until six months to a year. Consult your doctor.

Other essential nutrients for babies include:

  • Zinc found especially in meat and dark-meat poultry (iron and zinc are pals)
  • Calcium and Vitamin D found in fortified yogurt and cereal, egg yolks and fish
  • Omega-3s/DHA found in avocado or salmon
  • Vitamins A, B, C, and E. Carrots and sweet potatoes are brimming with vitamin A; green veggies, bananas, and beans are loaded with B’s; go with tomatoes, strawberries, and cantaloupe for C; and cereal and grains for E

Remember to try everything and to feed them the rainbow, and your children will be on the path to a lifetime of healthy eating — until they discover cornets anyway. Happy parenting!

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