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Newborn and Infant Care

Best fruits and vegetables

08/13/2007

Question:

Can you please suggest the best vegetables and fruits(that are good for the health) that I can give my 6 month old son. Can I give him broccoli? Please advice.

Answer:

It is wonderful that you know how important fruits and vegetables are in a baby's diet! With a little one at 6 months of age and just starting solids, the current recommendations are to introduce single fruits and vegetables that are pureed to a smooth consistency one at a time for 3 days each, to test for food allergy or sensitivity to each fruit and vegetable. Fruits and vegetables are interchangeable in terms of the vitamins and minerals they contain, which is why they form one food group. Broccoli is just fine as long as it is cooked and pureed. Green beans, carrots, squash, cauliflower, peas, and beets are all healthful choices. Mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes are fine, but not french fries or lumpy baked potatoes.

Food sensitivity is marked by diarrhea, gas, and fussiness. Food allergy is marked by itchy skin rashes and wheals, wheezing and difficulty breathing, a runny nose, swollen eyes, and a swollen, itchy mouth. Foods that provoke these type of reactions should be avoided in your child's diet and reported to your child's doctor. Things to avoid because of their highly allergenic properties are: all citrus foods including watermelon, fresh tomatoes and strawberries; egg whites; cow's milk; peanuts, peanut products such as peanut butter, and tree nuts; fish and shellfish. 

A serving size for a small baby is one tablespoon. If the baby does not like it, keep on introducing the food over and over. It may take 15-20 trials before the baby accepts the new food. This will help preserve variety of vitamins and minerals in the diet. Also, know  your baby's stool will likely change color, matching the color of the new vegetables or fruits you offer. This is normal.

Making your own baby food is fine as is using commercially prepared foods bought at the store. If you make your own, don't add salt or sugar. It often is helpful to put the puree into an ice cube tray. When it is frozen, pop out the veggie or fruit cubes and store them in a good quality freezer bag. Then you can extract a cube of veggies or fruit as needed and not waste food. Be careful in warming baby foods not to use the microwave, which can place hot spots within the food. It's a good idea to temperature test the food before giving it to the baby.

When your baby has tested a variety of fruits and vegetables, start increasing the thickness and lumpiness of the fruits and vegetables. Otherwise the child is likely to resist the switch to table foods at a year of age. Young children will still need and prefer softer foods than do adults because they only have 20 teeth compared to an adult's 32. Children actually chew and grind their food less well than do adults. So ground meats are favored by the young.

The new recommendations from the government and all pediatric health professional associations is that all of us should have AT LEAST five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. That is because their calorie content is low but their nutritional value is high as is the fiber content. Congratulations on being such a smart parent about your child's nutrition and being willing to provide those wonderful foods in the vegetable group for your child!

For more information:

Go to the Newborn and Infant Care health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN
Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University