Advice from a Registered Dietitian: What Foods Should You Introduce to Your Baby First?

By:  Prianka Rodé, RD

 

Around 6 months of age, your baby may be starting to develop an interest in the food you eat.  This is one of the signs that they are ready to try some solid foods. There are many foods you could choose to introduce at this time, but it is important to consider their nutritional needs when making this decision.

Iron is a nutrient which is especially important for infants. Meeting your baby’s iron requirements improves their mood and brain development, enhances their resistance to infections, and supports their growth. For the first 6 months, your baby will be getting enough iron from breastmilk or formula. However, around 6 months of age your baby’s growth gets faster, and their iron needs are higher. They require solid foods to help meet this increased need, so it is very important to include iron-rich foods at this time. When your baby is ready for solid foods, there are a variety of iron-rich foods you can introduce including meats, meat alternatives, and iron-fortified infant cereals.

Here are some examples of iron-rich foods to try:

Meats:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Pork
  • Eggs
  • Fish (low-mercury types like salmon, trout, and mackerel)
Meat alternatives:
  • Beans
  • Tofu
  • Lentils
Other foods:
  • Iron-fortified infant cereals
  • Dark, leafy green vegetables


The iron in meat is most easily absorbed, but it is good to introduce a variety of iron sources in your baby’s diet. To help enhance absorption of iron, include vitamin C-rich foods – like fruits and vegetables – along with iron-rich foods. No matter which food you introduce, always ensure they are cooked through and offered in softer textures like pureed, minced, and mashed.

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References:

  1. Dietitians of Canada (2014). Meeting your baby’s iron needs (6-12 months). Retrieved from https://www.pennutrition.com/index.aspx (PEN: Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition)
  2. Canadian Paediatric Society (2019). Iron requirements in the first 2 years of life. Retrieved from https://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/iron-requirements