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Our Favourite Ways to Use Vegetables in Complementary Feeding

Introducing solids is known as complementary feeding or weaning. It is the introduction of foods which complement your babies usual milk - rather than replacing it


Your little one's palate is like a blank canvas and is easily shaped by each new taste experience. During the first year of life babies are receptive to all five basic tastes - to differing degrees - preferring those that are sweet or salty.

When you start to introduce solid foods, it's really important to start with vegetables in as much variety as you can manage. Introducing the more bitter tasting vegetables such as broccoli or kale may need more perseverance than the easily accepted sweet tasting vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potato, or fruits such banana and mango but it is definitely worth the extra effort. Knowing where to start can get confusing, so we asked the experts at Babease for their advice.

Studies have shown that babies who eat a wide variety of vegetables during complementary feeding go on eat more vegetables in later childhood (up to 7 years) than those that don't. At Babease we feel that eating a wide variety vegetables early on and offering as many healthy taste experiences as you can, will help develop a lifelong love of vegetables and foods that will nourish throughout adulthood.

Starting to feed your little one foods other than milk can be an exciting but also daunting time. Here are five tips to see you through your little one's complementary feeding journey: straight from the weaning experts at Babease.

1. Start slowly and follow your babies lead

Don't worry about how much they're eating at the beginning, as it's more important for your little one to get used to experiencing different flavours and textures. Keeping up with their usual milk will offer the nutrients they need to begin with.

Allow plenty of time for eating, and go along with your baby's pace. Your baby may want to feed themselves, usually with their hands, or be happy to hold a spoon themselves whilst you spoon-feed them. Anything goes at this stage, so just follow your baby's lead. If your baby isn't interested, leave it and try again another day.

2. Try lots of different vegetables

Try to start complementary feeding with a wide variety of vegetables. Babies naturally prefer sweet, salty and umami-packed flavours to those that are bitter or sour. So only giving sweet foods such as fruits just reinforces their preference for sweet tastes. Instead, opt for bitter vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower and brussels sprouts.

Research has shown that babies who have been exposed to a wide variety of vegetables in their first year go on to eat more vegetables in later childhood. When buying ready made baby foods, carefully check the ingredients list. Vegetable named products often have fruit as the main ingredient, so are sweet rather than savoury.

3. Try Purees and finger foods

You can offer pureed vegetables as well as steamed vegetable pieces (such as broccoli florets) to increase the variety of textures. Make sure you cook the vegetables so that they're soft enough to be squashed between your fingers and make them large enough for your baby to hold in their fist and eat the part sticking out of the top. Some vegetables lend themselves more easily to being whole pieces or pureed but feel free to experiment and mix things up.

Some ideas for you to try: beetroot puree, avocado - pureed or cut into 'sticks', broccoli puree or florets (we call them trees!), brussel sprout puree, parsnip puree, spinach puree, kale puree, cauliflower puree or florets, courgette puree or chunky pieces (like big chip shapes), aubergine puree, fennel puree, swede puree, cabbage puree, leek puree, pea puree, turnip puree, carrot puree or sticks, sweet potato puree or 'wedges' without the skin.

4. Add extra flavours

As we've mentioned before, your little one's palate is open to anything. The more enjoyable taste experiences you can introduce the better. At Babease we like to incorporate extra flavour by using onions and garlic and different herbs and spices in many of our recipes to offer exciting flavour sensations. Herbs and spices are also a great way to add flavour without using salt so don't hold back, except with the chillies!

5. Try as many different tastes as you can

Babies are more open to new tastes and textures in their first year of life, so try to feed them as many different tastes as you can to get those taste buds tingling and broaden their tiny palates. Babies sometimes need to try new flavours up to 10-15 times before they accept them, so keep trying!

Alexandra Keates

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