Should babies eat more vegetables? Yes! Try these easy tips from two Registered Dietitian moms, including a quick recipe for Superfood Popsicles.
Today I’m thrilled to have two friends and fellow RDs taking over the blog to share some tips for introducing veggies to babies and the importance of doing it early and often!
Hello! Let us introduce ourselves. We’re Whitney and Alex, Registered Dietitians, moms and co-creators of Plant-Based Juniors. While we’re both “predominantly plant-based” eaters ourselves, our mission is to get more plants on the table — regardless of what else you’re serving! After seeing private clients for the past decade, we believe that most of us could use a few more plants in our diet, so why not begin that habit right from the start?!
As we both became moms in the last year, we know the struggles that come with deciding what (and how) to feed your children. It’s the reason that we started the Plant-Based Juniors community; a space to share evidence-based nutrition research on feeding kids and a judgment-free zone where we could help each other with all of the many decisions that come with raising healthy eaters, including things like division of responsibility and baby-led weaning (BLW).
Because this mission is so important to us, we also wrote a book, Plant-Based Juniors: First Bites (aff link) that guides parents in guiding baby toward a happy, healthy relationship with food. We provide you with a comprehensive guide to starting solids and answer all of the questions you may have along the way – from the first bite and beyond. We’ve also included 20 plant-based recipes that are perfect for infants!
Think of your baby’s palate like a blank canvas, easily shaped by each new taste and experience. As dietitians and parents, we’re focused on shaping that palate to enjoy all foods, especially nutrient-rich foods like vegetables. At Plant-Based Juniors, we take a baby-led weaning approach for many reasons, but no matter what approach to feeding you take, we recommend adding vegetables at almost every meal.
Studies have shown that babies who eat a wide variety of vegetables during the first year of life go onto eat more vegetables than those that don’t. Sweet-tasting vegetables, like carrots and sweet potatoes, might be accepted more than bitter-tasting vegetables but that’s OK. Continuing to offer different vegetables in different ways helps improve acceptability, even if it gets frustrating for mom and dad!
Now that we’ve shared WHY it’s so important to introduce veggies early and often, here are 5 tips to get you started:
- Vary your own diet: Breastfeeding? Then your diet may be just as important as baby’s. According to recent studies, babies are more likely to enjoy the foods their moms ate while breastfeeding over new foods they were never exposed to. If you are nursing, here’s one more reason to pile on the vegetables.
- Add spice: Yes, babies like flavor! We don’t know where the idea of bland baby-food came from, but it likely wasn’t from a baby! Season baby’s food the same way you would yours. All seasonings are on the table, except for salt, sugar and anything too spicy. Experimenting with different spice blends is a great way to expose your baby to new flavors.
- Make superfood popsicles: We consider popsicles to be the perfect place for leftover smoothies and green juices – throw them into a popsicle mold, freeze and you’re done! Enjoy the recipe below for our Superfood Popsicles.
- Offer them often: The key to acceptability? Making vegetables part of baby’s everyday routine. This is true for kids of all ages. The more they are exposed to veggies, the more they are willing to try them. We like to offer a vegetable in some form at every meal; it doesn’t need to be fancy – even steamed broccoli or finely-chopped spinach in scrambled eggs works!
- Make a dip: We all know that kids love dips! If your baby is less than a year old, dollop the vegetable dip onto steamed vegetable fingers or spread a thin layer on toast. For older kids, offer the dip alongside items you know they will eat. Almost any vegetable dip works. We like blending spinach, cooked beets or steamed carrots into hummus or yogurt.
If you want to learn more about BLW, our First Bites ebook provides guidance on how to start baby-led weaning, 20 baby-led weaning recipes, and how to incorporate key nutrients in a baby-led weaning approach. You can use code ‘pbjpartner’ for 10% off.
And now it’s recipe time! Like we mentioned above, superfood popsicles are an easy way to get vitamin and mineral-rich greens into your infant’s diet. We use a basic formula of greens + a vitamin C source (for enhanced iron absorption) + fruit to balance. The possibilities with these popsicles are endless! Bonus – they’re especially appealing to teething babies who need a little extra love on their gums.
Remember, the first few weeks and months of introducing solids to babies can shape their eating preferences for a lifetime. Therefore, we recommend introducing bitter greens early and often!
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An easy way to introduce vitamin & mineral-rich bitter greens to babies.
- Yield: Makes 4 popsicles
1/3 cup breast milk, formula or water
½ cup chopped greens of choice (try spinach, arugula, kale)
½ cup chopped fruit of choice (try peach, apple, pear, berries)
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
- Puree all ingredients in a high-powered blender or food processor until smooth.
- Strain, using a fine mesh strainer. This step is optional, but provides a smoother texture when using heartier greens or fruits with peels.
- Pour into popsicle molds, cover and freeze until hardened, about 3-4 hours.