Starting solids: Healthiest way to feed your toddlers

Oct 6, 2010 at 3:08 p.m. ET

The healthier your eating habits are as a kid, the stronger and more resilient you’ll be down the road. Which is why it’s so important to start your kids on the road to healthy eating as soon as possible. talked to celebrity chef Annabel Karmel about her latest book Starting Solids, a guide to getting children on a healthy nutritional path.

Baby eating fruit and vegetables

Conflicting advice gives rise to parenting book How did you come up with the idea for Starting Solids?

Annabel Karmel: Many people have asked me for a book on starting solids to help guide them through the first year of their baby's life. I've met a lot of parents who are confused by conflicting advice from books, doctors, websites, family and friends, so I wanted to write the book to help moms make informed decisions. There are delicious, quick and easy recipes and sound advice on the best "first" foods for kids.

Tips to introduce solids to your toddler What are some of the most important tips you can give to parents who are starting to wean their children?

Annabel Karmel: Introducing your baby to solid food should be gradual. Remember that babies progress at different rates and some days are better than others, so don't lose heart. Other tips:

  • Fresh is best for your baby. A good idea is to cook baby purees in bulk and freeze them in ice-cube trays or small containers so you don't need to cook every day. You can also mash foods like banana or avocado for easy and quick dishes. Cooking from fresh makes it easier to move on to "adult" food.
  • Steam for optimal nutrition. The best way to cook vegetables is to steam them, as it preserves the nutrients.
  • Be food allergy-savvy. Don't withhold foods because you're worried about allergies (especially if there is no history of allergy in the family).
  • Protein power. Introduce chicken, meat and fish into your baby's diet as soon as you can. They need sources of iron and essential fatty acids for development.
  • Try texture. Don't wait too long to introduce texture; stir tiny pasta shapes into your baby's purees.

Portion matters What about portion size? Does it really matter at a young age?

Annabel Karmel: It's difficult to give a [specific] portion size for babies, as some need more food than others and their feeding patterns can change – they eat more food during growth spurts and often eat less when teething. A meat puree, for example, will be so much more filling than a fruit puree, so a baby may eat different quantities. As they get mobile, babies' appetites tend to increase. They also know when they've had enough food (they'll stop eating), so don't worry too much about portion size.

Early solids equals less fussy eaters Why is it so important to start kids on healthy solid food from the get-go?

Annabel Karmel: It's vital to introduce good eating habits right from the start; a varied diet will help babies' tastes develop. The best time for introducing new foods and textures is between 6 and 12 months of age. That's when babies are generally good eaters. Their growth rate slows down after a year and life becomes more interesting as they are mobile and often less inclined to remain in their high chair. If you can develop their interest in food early on with fresh, home-cooked meals, your child will be a less-fussy, healthier eater.

Learn more about Starting Solids at

How To Start Your Baby On Solids

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