Weaning: how to prepare the first baby food, from theory to practice

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Week more, week less - also based on the child's neuromotor development and interest in food - when the baby turns six months, the time comes to offer him the first meals. "An important moment, because today we know how important the nutrition of the first 1000 days of life, from conception to the second birthday, is to build the future health of the individual until adulthood". Word of Margherita Caroli, pediatrician nutritionist member of the board of directors of the European Childhood Obesity Group and coordinator of a new document on weaning that the Del Paesena Society of Preventive and Social Pediatrics (SIPPS) has prepared in view of the congress, scheduled for October 2022. asked for some advice on how to prepare these first meals to offer to the child.

Read also: Weaning, when to start

In this article

  • General indications
  • vegetable broth or sauce
  • When to introduce the first baby food
  • The distribution of proteins during the week
  • If the child does not want to eat

First baby food, general reference information

There are some general concepts that are important to keep in mind before you even start cooking to prepare your baby's first meal other than milk.

"First - explains Caroli - that taking care of the nutrition of the first years of life is an important job of health promotion, preventing the development of conditions such as obesity and diabetes ".

"Second: that the child is not a small adult, for which he needs special attention with respect to what is put on his plate. For example needs more fat than an adult - 40-45% of the daily caloric intake, instead of the 30% recommended for mum and dad - because they need fats to build the myelin sheath that must envelop the nervous system ".

"On the other hand it needs little protein, because an excess of these nutrients in the first two years of life is associated with an increased risk of developing obesity ".

Often and from many quarters it is recommended to add 40-50 grams of protein foods (meat, fish, legumes, cheese) to the baby food: "But these are definitely exaggerated quantities", says Caroli. "For this reason, we SIPPS pediatricians invite you to reduce these doses, useless and potentially harmful, and not to exceed 10-15 grams".

And yet: no salt and no sugar in baby food, "because there is no reason to wear them and because they accustom the child to a taste that is either too salty or too sweet, thus influencing his future preferences. And we know that an excess of hypersalted or sweet foods favors the development of hypertension or diabetes and obesity ".

There are no limitations, however, with respect to the order of introduction of the foods. "Until a few years ago it was thought that some foods should be introduced after a certain age, to reduce the risk of food allergy. On the other hand, there was the fashion of 'everything and now', always for the same reason. Instead, scientific data has now amply demonstrated that there is no reason to delay - or anticipate - the introduction of potentially allergenic foods and therefore there is no need to follow rigid food presentation schemes ".

Read also: Egg protein allergy: what it is and how to behave

"But be careful - this does not mean that at six months we have to give the baby all the foods in the world, all together. He has all his life to taste new textures and flavors: at the beginning he needs a certain gradualness to get used to the novelty. I recommend offering the same baby food for a few days, before changing or adding ingredients ".

Also pay attention to consistencies. "Babies don't immediately learn to chew, which may also take some time. So better start with broths and semi-fluid consistencies, easier for them to manage. "Gradually, then, they will move on to more solid consistencies, coming to give them the food in small pieces before the nine monthsthe. "From the start, however, a nice piece of dry bread is a good workout. But beware: it really is bread, and not biscuits."


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The last general considerations concern the mood, the state of mind in which to sit at the table with the children. "They must be eaten with love, smiling, chatting, explaining what they are eating. And you have to give them the freedom to put their hands in the baby food (pay attention to the temperature!), Get dirty and experiment with the use of cutlery ". Even if it means a lot of chaos for the whole kitchen!

How to prepare the first baby food

We start the vegetable broth or from the sauce

The starting point is always the classic vegetable broth. "Compared to a few years ago, however, there is no longer an indication to limit oneself to one or a few vegetables at a time: you can make a vegetable broth as rich as possible, because the more vegetables there are, the more minerals, vitamins and antioxidants you bring". Go ahead, then, for carrots, leeks, squash, courgettes, peas, spinach, celery, green beans and so on.

As an alternative to broth, nothing prevents us from proposing a very "slow" vegetable sauce (soupy), boiling ripe tomatoes for a long time to which to add - only at the end of cooking - a nice spoonful of extra virgin olive oil (but without adding salt).

Here, the vegetable base of the baby food is ready, just mash a little vegetable in the broth itself (or in the sauce), or pass it with a vegetable mill. Instead, no to the use of the blender, which destroys the fibers. "It will be the child who will make us understand what kind of food he prefers: whether it is very watery or more consistent".

Once the vegetable base is ready, the cereals are added, starting with those with a more fluid consistency - semolina, cream of rice or corn - and then gradually move on to the pasta. "On average we say about 20-30 grams of powder, then maybe some children will want a little more and someone else a little less ". The fat component must be mainly given by theextra virgin olive oil, and here according to Caroli we can abound: "Not a teaspoon, but a nice spoonful per meal is perfect for children ".

There is no rush for protein

"In the case of breastfed babies, you can start introducing them even after a week. Even later for formula-fed babies. For the first few months this is enough. 10-15 grams of meat, fish, legumes (weight calculated raw) or cheese ". For chickpeas and beans (but not for lentils), Caroli recommends eliminating the skins, containing sugars which, by fermenting, can form intestinal gas." And also a nice half egg well cooked it's exquisite! ".

Alternatively, it can be proposed half a jar of baby food of meat, fish or cheese. As for the famous sprinkling of parmesan or parmesan, it can be added every now and then, to give a further contribution of calcium, but without exaggerating. "Certainly not with every meal and no more than five grams" advises the nutritionist.

Protein must be kept this low until one year of age. "On the other hand, from a certain point onwards the child will have two meals, so the quantity will be doubled. And obviously the quantities of other foods can be increased: vegetables, cereals, oil, fruit". As far as cheeses are concerned, the only exception on the doses is represented by ricotta, which has a lower protein content: in this case it can also be around 40 grams.

It is not necessary to add the protein component to the baby food to make a single dish: meat, fish, cheese and even egg (which can also be offered immediately) can be prepared as a main course, if desired accompanied by other vegetables. How? Chopping and shredding them.


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Lunch or dinner? When to propose the first meal and when to introduce the second

"There is no rigid indication of the time of day when the first meal should be offered. My advice is to do it when both mum and dad are present, so both can share the joy - and a little bit of the effort - of making the baby eat ".

When to introduce the second baby food

For breastfed babies, the second baby food can be introduced after about a month, while for those fed with formula milk it can wait even longer.

Of course, they are no longer the rigid indications of the past, even with respect to the succession of foods, but it is still one weaning mode certainly very organized and "marked", and some might argue that it represents a sort of medicalization of this moment, compared to more "free" trends such as self-weaning.

"But I don't think it's medicalization at all," replies the expert. "It is simply a treasure of the new knowledge that comes from scientific research, to promote the construction of future good health. stiffness mainly concerns the amount of protein and the absence of sugar and salt. For the rest you can safely leave the child some freedom. Certainly he should not be forced to finish his meals, while if we understand that he is still hungry we can give him more vegetables and cereals ".

The distribution of proteins during the week

How to distribute protein foods during the week? Caroli replies: “Three times the meat, three times the fish, three or four times the legumes, once or twice the egg and a couple of times the cheeses”. Processed meats (such as raw or cooked ham) should be introduced as late as possible, because they are very salty and rich in saturated fat. “In any case, no more than once a week and only in minimal quantities”.

If he doesn't want to eat

Some children may take time to get used to the novelty. Margherita Caroli's suggestion is not to worry (let alone get angry!) And give the child all the time he needs, offering close and repeated tastings of the same food, perhaps cooked in a different way, even for about ten times in a row.

Read also: Weaning: Why Does My Baby Not Want to Eat? What to do to convince him?

Industrial or household foods: which to choose?

"I don't think that evil or good are all on one side," says Caroli. "Industrial foods are the safest from the point of view of nutritional safety (they have fewer contaminants and fewer metals than allowed in adult products), but they have very homogeneous flavors".

"On the other hand, those prepared at home are less safe from a food safety point of view (even more so if we are talking about raw materials produced in highly polluted areas), but they allow you to taste various flavors. Perhaps a good solution could be a mix between the two proposals"concludes Caroli.

Questions and answers

When to give the first baby food? 

There is no strict indication on the time of day when the first meal should be offered. However, it is better to do it when both parents are present.

When to introduce the second baby food?

For breastfed babies, the second baby food can be introduced after about a month, while for those fed with formula milk it can wait even longer.

  • baby food
  • recipe first baby food
  • self-weaning
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