When we think about food for babies, we consider nutrition. We know some foods are introduced at certain times to lessen risk from allergies. We know things should be low in sugar. But did you know that texture is also important?
When you introduce whole foods into your child’s diet, you also expose them to a range of textures. From soft, pureed food, it’s important to move them onto solid and other textures of food.
The First Few Months of Solid Foods
Depending on your child, they may have been eating solid foods from five or six months. Pureed pumpkin, carrot, pears and apple feature heavily in many children’s diets at this stage, alongside baby cereal and milk. The range of offerings from the supermarket are vast, and home-made combinations are infinite. But by six or seven months, they should be happily eating a range of mashed or pureed foods.
Seven to Eight Months
During those first few months, babies have not learned how to chew. But by the eight month mark, they will have the ability to chew their food a little. While food should be minced or soft, foods that require some chewing should be introduced. Think about minced meat, and lumpier vegetables and fruits.
Failing to introduce textures can lead to your child having a preference for extremely soft foods. This not only limits their palate making it harder for parents to introduce new foods later on, but also limits the range of nutrients available to them. Some children persist with liking yoghurt, fruit and pasta. While these foods are fine as part of a balanced diet, exclusively it means they aren’t progressing to the nutrient-rich proteins and meats.
By the time they are 8 months old, there should be a variety of non-pureed food in their diets too. You want to encourage chewing. This change in diet may be rejected, but over time they will accept it.
Solid Foods at Nine Months Old
At around nine months old, foods for brain development are important. Consider things like finger sandwiches, lean meat cut into fine strips, and vegetables and fruit cut into pieces. Because children still struggle with chewing and swallowing at this age, it’s important to avoid crunchy or hard foods. Soft foods that break down in the mouth, like banana, cooked carrot and bread are fine. Avoid anything that could get stuck- no popcorn, hard vegetables or nuts. Be careful giving them items that could get stuck in their airways.
You can also introduce new foods by mixing them with known soft foods. Mashed potato or carrots can be a great place to mix peas into, adding texture and a new food. Couscous, quinoa, and other grains like rice are soft, easily eaten, and add flavour to diets.
For breakfast, you might consider oat porridge, pancakes with fruit puree, or an omelette or scrambled eggs. Lunch or dinner could be grilled cheese or thinly-sliced peanut butter on bread. Unsweetened yoghurt can have soft fruit or cooked hard fruit added. Mac and cheese with some pureed green vegetables are another soft-textured option.
From here, the options are endless. Your child will start developing food preferences and their ability to eat a variety of foods increase. It’s part of their growth and development and you want to help that happen, with different food textures that are appropriate for their physical stages.