Ideal foods by age: 4-6 months

sweetveggiepuree_edited_smallParents often ask us about ideal foods for different ages and stages and our recipe pages are not yet as comprehensive as we would like, so we have compiled this list as a reference. We will update it as we get new ideas or new information.

Weaning at 4-6 months

Recommendations for first solid foods vary between countries. Sweden and the UK currently recommend waiting until 6 months of age before starting with solid foods. Sweden’s recommendations changed from 4 months to 6 months quite recently and ‘tasting portions’ between 4 and 6 months of age are now advised. The concern is that your baby’s digestive tract may not yet be fully developed, which may cause allergies if a food is ingested too early (or too late). These are only guidelines of course and every child is different. It may be more sensible to look for signs of readiness for solids. Whilst some children will not be ready for solids before 6 months, some children are ready to start eating larger portions (Fewtrell, 2010). It is therefore important for parents to know which foods are best for their babies to consume before 6 months and how they can prepare them.

At about 4 months of age, many children have a growth spurt and start eating more often and waking at night. This alone is not enough to suggest that your baby is ready for solids. But if your child is hungry much more often than usual, can hold his head properly, has lost the tongue reflex which pushes food back out of the mouth and is grabbing food from your plate (perhaps desperately?), that is a good sign that he is ready to start, especially if he has reached 5 months.

We recommend making all, or as much food as possible from scratch out of fresh, organic vegetables, fish and pastured meats and avoiding processed foods. Your baby’s digestive system may still not be able to handle starchy foods at this age, though some can. Regardless of whether your baby can digest grains or not, since babies this age usually eat small amounts we think that it is best to prioritize foods which are naturally high in nutrients over cereals. These include meat, organ meat, avocados, egg yolk and oily fish. There is one exception to this. Recent studies suggest that gluten should be introduced no later than 7 months of age (although not before 4 months of age) to reduce the risk of gluten intolerance (Chmieliewska, 2013) and wheat allergy (Poole, 2006). Regardless of timing of introduction, breastfeeding for longer periods has been shown to have a protective effect, at least in the first year of life (Nedeljko et al, 2010).

You can read more about the latest advice on introducing gluten here .

Vegetables (organic)Fruits (organic)Protein (organic/pastured)Fats and oils (organic)
AsparagusApple (steamed)BeefCoconut oil
Butternut squashAvocadoChickenAvocado oil
BroccoliApricotChicken livers (steamed)Olive oil
CarrotCantaloupeElkCod Liver Oil (fermented)
CucumberBlueberriesHaddockButter (grass-fed)
Green beansPeachesLambNA
ParsnipBlackberriesBeef liversNA
PumpkinRaspberriesEgg yolkNA
ZucchiniPlumsCod RoeNA
Winter squashPapayaNA

A note about weaning

Baby-led weaning is all the rage these days and we think it is great to encourage children to eat by themselves as early as possible. However, every child is different and the most important thing is that your baby eats a wide variety of flavours and nutrients. So long as you watch for your baby’s cues, we do not think it matters whether you spoon feed, let baby eat pureed food himself or give him chunks (or a combination). In our opinion, a combination is ideal because you can blend in many more herbs, spices and flavours into purees in early weaning.

The ‘baby-led weaning’ books also seem to promote the idea that apart from honey, your child can eat whatever you are eating. This is true to a point. If you eat a healthy, rounded diet with no processed foods, some good fats and little salt, your child can eat whatever you eat. But many (most?) adults don’t eat such a diet. Remember that your child has never tasted sugar, salt, Mcdonald’s hamburgers or hot dogs. Whether a child develops a life-long taste for healthy food or unhealthy food depends very much on early diet (see for example Kudlova, 2012).

Vegetables can be roughly pureed (not extremely smooth but without large pieces) for very early eaters and blended or mashed with a few drops of olive or avocado oil, some herbs and perhaps a chunk of soft, ripe avocado.

SUPER FOODS FOR BABIES 4-6 MONTHS


Fruits and vegetables

ASPARAGUS

Asparagus is an excellent source of Vitamin K, which helps build strong bones. It contains inulin which promotes good bacteria in the gut and saponins, which are anti-inflammatory. It is a great early food for babies because as well as being very healthy, it has a slightly bitter taste. It is a good idea to introduce bitter foods early to babies during this often enthusiastic eating phase.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Steam and then puree with another food such as avocado, carrots, pumpkin and/or a protein such as chicken and some herbs such as rosemary, thyme or basil; serve in tiny pieces if your baby is able to pick them up himself. Add tiny slices to soups, stews or even bolognese sauce.

Asparagus recipes 4-6 months
Sweet Vegetable Puree

BUTTERNUT SQUASH
Butternut squash is extremely high in immune-protective, natural sunscreen beta-carotene and an abundant source of antioxidants, fibre, Vitamin C, manganese, Vitamin B6, potassium and Vitamin K. It is a perfect early food because it is sweet, soft and easy to cook.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Mix with some fat such as avocado or olive oil for better nutrient absorption and for taste. It can be mixed with other vegetables such as carrots or parsnips and any kind of meat.

Butternut squash recipes 4-6 months
Butternut Squash Soup

BROCCOLI
Broccoli is very high in Vitamins C and K as well as a good source of folate, Vitamin A and fibre. It is therefore a superfood for babies and children who need lots of Vitamin K to help build their growing bones. Because it contains cellulose and fibre it might cause gas in some children, so introduce it in small amounts to start with.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Steam and mash or puree with other vegetables such as carrots, parsnip and/or pumpkin. Mash in some avocado or drizzle avocado oil over as a source of good fats. Add some protein like pastured chicken, fish or a teaspoon of steamed liver.

Broccoli recipes 4-6 months
Sweet Vegetable Puree
Apple, Blueberry and Broccoli puree

CARROT
Carrots contain extremely high levels of immune-protective, mild natural sunscreen beta-carotene and are extremely effective in lowering CVD risk according to recent research (Griep, 2011). Carrots are a great first food, because they are sweet as well as healthy and mix well with many other foods.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Steam them. Steaming them whole retains more nutrients than chopping them up first (2). After steaming you can puree roughly or mash with a fork and combine them with a fat such as avocado or avocado oil. Mix in some other vegetables such as steamed parsnip and green beans for a mixed-vegetable puree, add a small amount of protein from the list below and you have a meal.

Carrot recipes 4-6 months
Sweet pepper, carrot and parsnip
Sweet Vegetable Puree

CUCUMBER
Cucumbers are high in Vitamin K and lignans and their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties have repeatedly been confirmed in animal studies. The skin is very nutritious but the middle part is soft and a great first food.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Peel off the skin and chop out the central, soft watery inside flesh. Blend into a juice or just chop into tiny pieces. Use the leftover skin and harder cucumber flesh in your own salad.

GREEN BEANS
Haricot verts, or green beans, are very high in Vitamin C, K and A as well as manganese and fibre.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Add to soups, stews and purees. Blend well at this age because green beans can be stringy and their long, thin shape can be a choking hazard, so be careful to remove any strings and chop up into small pieces.

PARSNIP
Parsnip contains poly-acetylene anti-oxidants and is high in Vitamin C, B and folate. It is higher in natural sugars than other vegetables but it is a great first food for babies because it is sweet and can be quickly steamed until soft.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Offering chunks of soft parsnip or puree it with other vegetables like carrots. Add some good fats in the form of olive or avocado oil, or avocado flesh and herbs such as basil or oregano plus a spoonful of protein from the list below.

Parsnip recipes 4-6 months
Sweet pepper, carrot and parsnip

PUMPKIN/WINTER SQUASH
Winter squash is extremely high in immune-protective, mild natural sunscreen beta-carotene and is an abundant source of antioxidants, fibre, Vitamin C, manganese, Vitamin B6, potassium and Vitamin K. Winter squash is a perfect early food because it is sweet-tasting, so babies love it.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Winter squash is ideal served mixed with some fat such as avocado or olive oil for better nutrient absorption and for taste. It can be mixed with other vegetables such as carrots or parsnips and any kind of meat. We prepare winter or kabocha squash by roasting it whole for 20 minutes until soft enough to slice. We slice the squash, completely remove the innards, sprinkle cinnamon and drizzle olive oil over it, roast another 20 minutes until it is soft and then serve cubed in salads, as a mash or as a side dish.

Pumpkin recipes 4-6 months

ZUCCHINI
Summer squashes like zucchini are very high in vitamin C, Molybdenum and Vitamin B6 as well as many other nutrients.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Summer squash is soft, easy and quick to steam so it is perfect when you are in a rush.
It can be made into soups, added to purees or served in big chunks. It is so soft that babies can eat well-steamed chunks of summer squash from 6 months.

Zucchini recipes 4-6 months
Sweet Vegetable Puree

APPLE (steamed)
Apples are high in pectin, phytonutrients and polyphenols. They are delicious steamed or served fresh and steamed apples can be pureed to make a delicious (but very sweet) apple sauce. Children love the taste of apple.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Remove skins and steam until soft. Puree or offer cooled pieces if they are very soft. You can also blend them with vegetables such as carrots or other fruits like blackberries or raspberries or avocados. Frozen berries should be boiled for one minute under current recommendations.

Apple recipes 4-6 months
Homemade apple sauce

AVOCADO
Avocado is extremely high in fibre and is also high in Vitamin K, Folate, Vitamin C, Vitamin B5 and potassium. It is full of good fats and adding it to salads or purees or just serving as a side dish will help your child to absorb many more nutrients from food. For that reason we consider it the ideal first fruit. As well as being very healthy, a ripe avocado is soft and can be added to other foods or eaten in small pieces. The high fibre content makes it healthy, but eating a lot *may* make stools a bit loose for the first day or so.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Mashed into other vegetables to enhance their nutrient absorption or given as soft pieces which babies can eat themselves.

Avocado recipes 4-6 months
Salmon and pea puree

APRICOT
Apricot is high in iron, beta-carotene and fibre. It also contains tryptophan, a mood-boosting nutrient. Apricots are ideal early foods because of their nutrient profiles and because they are soft and sweet and children love them.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Serve soft apricots raw. Peel for small babies and chop them into tiny (3mm) pieces, or puree if your child has trouble eating lumps.

CANTALOUPE
Cantaloupe is extremely high in Vitamins A and C. It is a good source of potassium, folate and polyphenols. Cantaloupe is a great first food because it is very sweet and soft. Babies love eating chunks of ripe, juicy melon, spilling the juices all down their faces in the process.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Very ripe, raw and in very small pieces, or pureed with a little water or oatmilk. Melon pieces are perfect for a picnic or a quick, messy snack. Like many fruits melons are high in natural sugars so it is a good idea to blend them with an avocado or serve as a combination of cucumber and/or avocado chunks to avoid too much of a sugar hit.

PEACHES
Peaches contain a lot of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Babies love their sweet flavour.

How to serve at 4-6 months

Very ripe, raw and in very small pieces with the skins removed, or pureed with a little water or oatmilk. Peaches are perfect for a picnic or a quick, messy snack. Like many fruits peaches are high in natural sugars so it is a good idea to blend them with an avocado or serve as a combination of cucumber and/or avocado chunks to avoid too much of a sugar hit.

PAPAYA
Papaya is extremely high in Vitamins C and A and it is also very high in folate, potassium and fibre. They contain papain, an enzyme that helps to digest proteins. The antioxidants in papaya have been shown to protect against oxidation and free radicals in the body and the folic acid and fibre help with the processing of cholesterol.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Very ripe, raw and in very small pieces, or pureed with a little water or oatmilk. Papaya is perfect for a picnic or a quick, messy snack. Like many fruits papayas are high in natural sugars so it is a good idea to blend them with an avocado or serve as a combination of cucumber and/or avocado chunks to avoid too much of a sugar hit.

BLUEBERRIES
Blueberries are extremely high in antioxidants, Vitamin K, manganese and Vitamin C. Wild blueberries can taste bitter and your child might pull a funny face at first, but we believe that introducing bitter tastes at an early age will minimize fussiness later.

How to serve at 4-6 monthsFrozen or fresh blueberries can be added to salads or fruit salads, chopped and added to yogurt, pureed alone or with other fruits or mixed into a smoothie. They can be served warm or cold.

BLACKBERRIES
Like other berries, blackberries are extremely high in Vitamin C and other antioxidants. But there are many powerful compounds in blackberries, including ellagic acid, anthocyanins, catechins and phytochemicals. They have all be shown to protect against damage in the body and prevent modern diseases such as cancer.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Frozen or fresh blackberries can be added to salads or fruit salads, chopped and added to yogurt, pureed alone or with other fruits or mixed into a smoothie. They can be served warm or cold. According to current recommendations, frozen berries should be boiled before using.

RASPBERRIES
Raspberries are a rich source of over 25 important phytonutrients – in significant quantities – and an excellent source of vitamins C and K as well as Manganese. Raspberries can taste bitter and your child might pull a funny face at first, but we believe that introducing bitter tastes at an early age will minimize fussiness later.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Frozen or fresh raspberries can be added to salads or fruit salads, chopped and added to yogurt, pureed alone or with other fruits or mixed into a smoothie. They can be served warm or cold.

PLUMS
Plums are high in antioxidants such as Vitamin C as well as being a good source of fibre, potassium and Vitamins K and A.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Very ripe (soft) and raw. Puree with the skins or remove skins and cut into very small pieces (3-4 mm).

MEAT AND FISH (organic/grass-fed)

BEEF (GRASS-FED)
Beef is a controversial food, both because it contains a lot of saturated fat and because many studies have linked meat – red meat consumption in particular – with human disease. But the studies are flawed because red meat and processed meat have always been studied together and participants who ate a lot of red meat were also more likely to indulge in other unhealthy habits. No study has looked exclusively at grass-fed/pastured beef in particular. There are many advantages to consuming grass-fed beef. It has twice the amount of beta-carotene and lutein than grain-fed beef. It also contains a large amount of heart-healthy CLA, as well as Vitamin B12, Zinc, iron and other essential B vitamins.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Shred it in a food processor or with your hands and add a tablespoon or so to vegetable purees; Serve shredded/chopped into tiny pieces as a finger food. Avoid serving meat with high-calcium foods like dairy (e.g. milk-based sauces) because calcium interferes with iron absorption.

CHICKEN (ORGANIC/PASTURED)
Pastured chicken means that the animals spend their time outside – foraging, grazing and getting their protein from bugs and worms. You can read more about pastured vs free-range and organic here (link). Chicken is an excellent source of tryptophan, Vitamin B3, Protein and Selenium, Vitamin B6, Phosphorous and Choline. Children love it for its mild taste and texture. It is an ideal early food because it is soft when steamed or roasted and can be shredded easily.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Shred into small pieces and puree with vegetables or – for those who are baby-led weaning – serve in tiny pieces at this age.

Chicken recipes 4-6 months
Chicken, leek and rosemary puree

CHICKEN/CALF LIVERS (from pastured animals)
Animal livers from healthy, pastured animals contain high levels of essential nutrients such as Vitamin A, Vitamins B12, B5,B3, B6, copper, tryptophan, choline, folate, zinc and iron. The high Vitamin A content is excellent for the immune system, but it also means that liver should be eaten in small amounts at this age, perhaps a teaspoon of grated steamed liver, once per week, at most.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Steam or dry-fry until cooked through and serve grated into a vegetable puree (1-2 teaspoons at this age).

EGG YOLK
Egg yolk is an excellent source of choline, omega 3 fats, tryptophan and selenium and a good source of iodine, B-vitamins, protein and molybdenum. Mashing it into a puree is a delicious, quick and convenient way of adding protein to a baby’s food.

How to serve at 4-6 months
We serve our egg yolks runny because runny egg yolks are more nutritious – and delicious – and modern farming techniques has significantly decreased the likelihood of salmonella infection. However, the official recommendation is still to fully cook the yolks, so we recommend that you do that, particularly at this age. You can boil an egg and then remove the yolk and mash it with avocado oil and balsamic vinegar: serve egg yolk whole; crack the yolk into a pan and gently cook the yolk or scramble it in some olive or avocado oil.

Egg recipes 4-6 months
Baby Omelette

LAMB (grassfed/pastured)
Grass-fed lamb is an excellent source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which has been shown in many studies to be highly beneficial to health. It is a great source of tryptophan, protein, selenium, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B3, Zinc and Phosphorus.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Shredded and added to a vegetable puree; stewed until very soft and offered as tiny pieces. In a tagine with softened dried fruits.

HADDOCK
Haddock is an excellent source of protein and essential vitamins, including B vitamins folate, riboflavin, thiamin and panthothenic acid. It also contains phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, sodium, zinc, copper and manganese
Haddock is a mild-tasting fish, which has a low mercury content so it is an ideal early food.

How to serve at 4-6 months:
Cook in the oven on a medium heat and flake into a puree, or serve as finger food. Be careful to remove all bones before serving.

OILS AND FATS

COCONUT OIL (organic, cold-pressed)
Organic, cold-pressed coconut oil is making a comeback as a health food having been criticized because of its high saturated fat content. Coconut oil is high in medium chain fatty acids, such as Lauric acid, which are easily digested. The body converts Lauric acid into Monolaurin, which has numerous health benefits including improved immunity against disease.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Coconut oil can be used in all kinds of dishes. It can be added to vegetables or smoothies as an extra source of healthy fat or even eaten straight from the teaspoon.

AVOCADO OIL
Avocado oil is a great source of carotenoids. Studies show that antioxidants like lycopene and beta-carotene are absorbed better from a salad that includes avocado. It is fibre-rich and very high in Vitamin K, folate and Vitamins C, B5 and B6 as well as potassium. It has a wonderful rich flavour and tastes delicious.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Saute or roast vegetables in it; drizzle it on salads or use to make dressing; mash it up with eggs and balsamic vinegar as a healthy alternative to egg mayonnaise; use it in baking or cooking instead of other oils.

FERMENTED COD LIVER OIL
Cod Liver Oil (CLO) is an old staple and was a common childhood tonic for many years. In the 1990s concerns were raised about the levels of Vitamin A in CLO and doctors stopped recommending it. You can read more more about that here. A good quality Cod Liver Oil with its natural vitamin ratio preserved is an excellent source of nutrients. The only one we know of is Blue Ice Cod Liver Oil. This is the one we eat at home.

How to serve at 4-6 months
Mix the recommended dose well with a glass of oat milk and serve. Tell your children it is a special golden juice. My children love it.

References

Fewtrell M, Wilson DC, Booth I, Lucas A. Six months of exclusive breast feeding: how good is the evidence? BMJ. 2010 Jan 13;342:c5955. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c5955. PubMed PMID: 21233152 [Pubmed]

Griep, 2011 [Online]

Kudlová E, Schneidrová D. Dietary patterns and their changes in early childhood. Cent Eur J Public Health. 2012 Jun;20(2):126-34. PubMed PMID: 22966737 [Pubmed]

Newcastle University, 2009 [Online]

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