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Introducing your baby to their first ever taste of solid food can feel like a momentous occasion, although perhaps a little daunting too!

The important thing is not to put too much pressure on yourself. And before you get blending, batch-cooking and experimenting with lots of delicious flavour combinations, remember that weaning is a gradual process. Babies have tiny tummies and will only be having a very small amount at first.

First tastes: vegetables

Start with a single vegetable. The reason for this is so that your baby can identify the foods they’re eating. Just like an adult palate, babies are born with mature taste buds for sweet, bitter, sour and savoury tastes. But after six months of being fed breast milk or formula which is naturally sweet because of the lactose, it’s understandable that your baby will be more inclined to take to sweet foods such as root veggies like sweet potato, carrot, parsnip and butternut squash.

In contrast, their taste buds wouldn’t have yet been exposed to more bitter and sour tastes, so they’ll need to learn about this through food.

Now obviously all of those nutrient dense veggies such as broccoli and spinach are a world apart from what they are familiar with, so it’s likely to take a little perseverance to get them accepting these flavours.

And that’s why research suggests that we should be introducing these more bitter and sour green veggies at the beginning alongside those sweeter root veggies. If introduced early in your baby’s weaning journey (by that, I mean the first few weeks of weaning and beyond), and with repeated exposure, it’s likely they’ll be more receptive to these foods which will set them up for the future.

So your main take-away here is to offer your baby a wide variety of single first foods – the sweet root veggies and the more bitter green ones. Once they have accepted these single flavours, you can then go on to experiment with flavour combinations.

If you are pureeing, simply steam and blend (or use a sieve and fork) so that your puree is smooth and lump-free. The consistency of runny yoghurt is a good guide to follow and remember that these first few days are all about introducing new tastes and they will only eat small amounts at first so it’s likely you’ll only need a few teaspoons’ worth.

And if you’re going down the baby-led route with baby taking the lead, then you’ll need to steam or bake the vegetables so that they are nice and soft, but not so soft that they can be easily mushed – that baby grip is stronger than you think!

First tastes: fruit

With fruit,it’s important to choose those that are ripe and have a good flavour so try tasting them yourself before giving them to your baby. Ripeness is really important and it’s so your baby can easily digest the food.
No-cook fruits such as banana, avocado, mango and papaya are great as they provide a quick, nutritious and fuss-free meal for your baby in seconds! These can be served as wedges or batons, pureed to a smooth consistency or mashed.

Other good first tastes fruit include apple, apricots and pear which can be steamed, baked or cooked in a saucepan. Cooking breaks the structure of food down which helps your baby to digest these. A slightly older baby will be better able to handle the fibres and sugars of raw fruits than baby who is younger and just starting on solids.

Once you have introduced single ingredient purees you can make combinations like apple and pear, avocado and banana or peach and banana for example. Combining fruit with savoury was Annabel’s secret weapon when she was weaning her son Nicholas. He liked eating apples but wouldn’t eat chicken so she made combinations like chicken, sweet potato and apple which he loved.

If you are starting at 6 months, it’s important to introduce foods containing critical nutrients, like protein, iron and omega 3 essential fatty acids fairly quickly. Offer fruit and veg for the first couple of weeks and then start introducing protein-rich foods like red meat, eggs and lentils and oily fish such as salmon.

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