If you have done a bit of Googling about weaning, you will no doubt have found endless lists of the top 100 foods for babies to try before they are one years old.
Lists can vary a lot and they may seem like a good idea as you embark on introducing your baby to solid foods. But are they really a good idea?
The weaning debate
You may have heard that it’s important to give baby a variety of foods. So lists outlining 100 foods to try sound like they achieve that, don’t they?
You may have heard that it’s important to introduce allergens one at a time and early in the weaning process. So having a list would help you keep track of that, wouldn’t it?
You may have heard that there is something called a ‘flavour window’ when children are more likely to accept foods if they have had them during that time. So following a list of 100 foods helps get a lot of foods into baby in that time, doesn’t it?
Well, yes and no.
A varied diet
It is definitely important for babies to have a variety of foods, but they also need repeat exposure to foods. It can be easy to just tick the foods off the list and not think any more about it.
However, in actual fact, baby needs to have the same foods offered multiple times to really widen their palette. If they reject the food, studies show it can take about 10-15 times to accept it, but we usually give up after attempt 3 or 4.
Within the ‘flavour window’, we ideally want babies to have foods repeatedly but also in different forms. For example, once safe to do so, we want babies to have carrot batons, mashed carrot and pieces of carrot – even raw carrot. This further broadens the palette but you won’t see this on 100 foods lists.
In terms of allergens, lots of ‘100 foods lists’ miss off some of the 14 common allergens. According to the Food Standards Agency these are: “celery, cereals containing gluten (such as barley and oats), crustaceans (such as prawns, crabs and lobsters), eggs, fish, lupin, milk, molluscs (such as mussels and oysters), mustard, peanuts, sesame, soybeans, sulphur dioxide and sulphites (if the sulphur dioxide and sulphites are at a concentration of more than ten parts per million) and tree nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts).”
Research shows that including allergens in the diet from the age of around 6 months can significantly reduce the risk of our children developing food allergies. So it’s vital we add these to the list.
In addition to the variety, repeat exposure and allergen issues, there is also the problem with some of the foods on the lists. Some lists include foods which are not appropriate for children under the age of one.
Examples of these are croissants, sausage rolls and raisins. Foods which have added sugar are not recommended until children are four years old. Sausage rolls are very high in salt and processed meat is not ideal for babies (or any of us for that matter). Raisins are a choking hazard for babies and are not good for children’s teeth (you can give them to older children but ideally only with meals and not as a snack).
The weaning checklist
So, if you are planning to use a ‘100 foods list’, here are some tips:
- Check the list for foods which are not suitable and swap those with one of the many vegetables or fruits which are not on the list
- Add extra columns to your list to record how many times they have had the food and whether they liked it or not each time
- Vary the way you offer the food – in texture and shape
- Don’t get fixated on the 100 foods. It can help with giving ideas but don’t create a rod for your own back.
- When it comes to choosing the foods for your list, start with the foods you use most often in your family diet– as long as they are safe for baby. This will help them on their journey to eating your family foods.
In short, 100 foods lists can be helpful, but we need to be very careful which ones we use and how we use them.
If you need more help and advice on weaning and introducing foods to your baby, please get in touch here via my bloss profile and I’d be only too happy to help.