The answer is easier than you think. Baby should be eating whatever you’re eating for dinner—so long as it’s balanced, nutritious and free of not-so-great additives, like salt or sugar.
Don’t be surprised if baby crinkles his or her nose at your meal—sometimes he or she needs to be exposed to a particular food up to a dozen times before accepting it. “At this point, your job is simply to offer the food,” explains Scott Cohen, MD, a pediatrician and author of Eat, Sleep, Poop: A Common Sense Guide to Your Baby’s First Year. “Don’t force things or stress. Kids tend to grow and get the nutrients they need, even though it sometimes seems like they’re growing off of sunlight and air.”
Some favorite dinner ideas from Amelia Winslow, nutritionist and founder of Eating Made Easy, and Bridget Swinney, president of the El Paso Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and author of Eating Expectantly, Baby Bites and Healthy Food for Healthy Kids:
• Steamed zucchini or yellow squash mixed with a little low-sodium marinara sauce and mashed noodles.
• Pureed beef mixed with pureed sweet potato.
• Steamed pureed squash mixed with pureed turkey, applesauce and pureed blueberry on the side.
• Small pieces of soft, cooked, boneless fish, well-cooked carrots in small pieces or mashed applesauce with small pieces of apricot.
Don’t freak out if baby passes over the peas at tonight’s dinner. Remember: Breast milk or formula still provides baby with most of the nutrition he or she needs, and take a longer view, says Winslow. “Instead of making sure every meal is balanced, try to aim for a balanced week,” she says.
For example, protein is important, but babies sometimes hate meat. Introduce other protein-rich foods, such as eggs, fish, cheese, yogurt, tofu and lentils. If you’re worried baby might not be getting enough of a certain nutrient, consult your pediatrician. She may recommend supplements (Cohen likes Enfagrow for extra DHA).