In the first 12 months of life, infants triple their birth weight, gain fine motor control and progress from completely dependent beings to more independent, ambulatory personalities. It takes consistently excellent nutrition to support all this growth.
To ensure that the baby food you make contains the nutrients your child needs, shop the fresh produce and meat sections of the store and skip the canned foods. Most commercial canned foods contain added salt, sugar, preservatives, coloring and other stuff your baby doesn't need to encounter as he or she learns to appreciate and digest solid foods.
Introduce fresh fruits, vegetables and meats one by one until your baby has a varied diet that includes many of the foods the rest of the family enjoys. Bananas, which are actually a giant herb and not a fruit, provide protein, calcium, iron, potassium and several vitamins that babies need. Pears are a good source of calcium, and plums are packed with vitamin A. Beef, pork and chicken are excellent sources of protein, calcium, essential fatty acids and important vitamins. Vegetables bring beneficial fiber, minerals and vitamins into your child's diet without adding any cholesterol [source: Gebhardt].
That said, there are some foods from each category that children shouldn't eat before their first birthday, and others that shouldn't be prepared at home. These include foods that are known to cause allergic reactions in infants, foods that can cause choking and certain vegetables that naturally concentrate nitrates.
Foods that commonly induce an allergic reaction in children include:
- Egg whites
- Cow's milk
- Citrus fruits
- Ice cream
[source: Caplan, Tamborlane]
Because of their hardness, texture or shape, some foods can cause infants to choke. Avoid giving these foods to children under 12 months of age:
- Hot dogs
- Peanut butter
- Raw carrots
- Raw peas
- Raw apples
- Corn kernels
[source: Caplan, Tamborlane].
Honey is another food that children shouldn't eat in its raw form during their first year. Raw honey contains bacteria that a young child's digestive system can't cope with. It can cause severe illness.