The ABC’s of healthy eating

What every parent should know

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Am I feeding my baby the right foods for their age? Are they getting enough of key nutrients like Iron? What is best for my toddler? We’re breaking down the ABC’s of healthy eating, nutrients, and baby food to arm parents with the information they need to raise healthy eaters, and to help make sure that every bite counts.


is for Allergen
Every baby’s journey is different, and you should consult your pediatrician on potential allergens before introducing new foods. With that said, experts now recommend offering common food allergens (in the US, these are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish and now sesame too!) in developmentally appropriate forms once solid foods are introduced. Research shows that for peanut, eating baby-safe forms of peanut may help reduce the risk of developing a peanut allergy later. Gerber’s Baby Pops Peanut, a puffed corn and oat snack that offers peanut in a developmentally appropriate form for babies 8 months and older, is a fun snack to include peanut in the diet.


is for Banana
Not only are bananas a delicious source of potassium, magnesium, fiber and vitamin B6, but they’re also an integral part of many baby foods, pouches, purees and handheld foods. Whether on its own or combined with other flavors as in Gerber’s Banana Mango Avocado Quinoa Vanilla puree, banana is an easy, crowd-pleasing early food.


is for Carrots
Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A from beta carotene, which is needed to support healthy eyes. Around 6 months of age, babies can try this tasty root vegetable, and as they grow, carrots can be incorporated into other fun blends like the Organic Mango Peach Carrot Sweet Potato Oatmeal pouch.


is for Developmentally Appropriate
It’s important for you to not only feed your baby quality foods, but also foods that fits baby’s developmental stage. For example, you wouldn’t give a 5-month-old finger foods when they are not yet ready to pick up and handle small pieces. Look for products like Gerber with milestone information to guide parents to find foods that are developmentally appropriate for their baby—including finger food snacks that are great for helping baby learn to pick up foods.


is for Vitamin E
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant and helps support the immune system. It’s found in foods like peanuts and peanut butter, almonds, sunflower seeds, mango, avocado and pumpkin—all in baby appropriate forms of course—which (phew!) are also delicious foods many babies love. Assuming your pediatrician’s go-ahead for seeds and nuts, including foods rich in vitamin E is another way to round out the nutrients your baby receives during those critical first years.


is for Farms
Not just any farms, only the best. It’s important to choose a baby food brand that has strict agriculture practices, so that the farmers are growing safe and tasty food for baby while caring for the land. Gerber has established partnerships with many multigenerational family farms and growers—all with Gerber’s strict quality standards—that go back decades. Gerber’s own team of agriculture experts (really!) consisting of horticulturists and agronomists work hands-on with farmers to bring only the best to your family. Together, this all-star team selects seeds and veggie/fruit varieties, tests the soil, and helps care for the crops across all Gerber Grower farms.


is for Guidelines
As in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which include recommendations for children from birth to 24 months for the first time ever. A team of nutrition scientists and pediatric experts came together to inform the new guidelines, which are designed to help parents make every bite count, and babies get the best start possible. Growing babies need ample nutrition—exclusive breastfeeding is best for the first 6 months but if BF is not chosen or possible then infant formula is the only safe and nutritious alternative. Around the middle of the first-year babies can start solids – infant cereals, nutrient dense fruits, veggies and whole grains as well a variety of protein and dairy foods such as beans, eggs, yogurt and iron-rich meats and poultry are the foundation for a healthy start.


is for Hydration
Consult with your pediatrician, but most experts agree that babies do not need water to drink before six months old (they’re getting all the hydration they need from breastmilk and formula). However, once your baby starts solids, small amounts of water are ok—and the more active baby gets as they age, the more you’ll want to keep an eye on making sure your baby stays hydrated.


is for Iron
Iron is a key nutrient for brain development that all babies need in their diet. Gerber’s Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study found that nearly 1 in 5 infants aged 6-12 months fall short on dietary iron. The new Dietary Guidelines recommend iron-fortified infant cereals as well as iron-rich meats to provide this important nutrient. Getting enough iron helps support brain development, learning ability and immune function. Two servings of infant cereal a day meets your baby’s need for iron.


is for Just the Right Amount
It’s hard to know how much to serve your active toddler who one day eats a lot and the next seems too busy playing for snack time. Offer small amounts and let your toddler decide if she is hungry for more. Never force her to finish her plate. Foods designed just for toddlers have small serving sizes, which can help you offer toddler-sized portions.


is for Keep At It
Kiddos change their preferences all the time when it comes to eating; one day they refuse something and the next day they love it. Fun fact— it can take up to ten tries for baby to accept a new food. Try introducing new foods alongside established favorites so they have something they like and never force them to keep eating something they don’t want. And of course, showing mom or dad likes the food while maintaining a never-give-up attitude is a great way to model how to try things new and may help avoid dietary ruts. Healthy eating for the win!


is for Let Baby Choose
Tune into your baby’s hunger and fullness cues to help you know when and how much to feed. When baby is hungry, they may cry/fuss, attempt to grab or swipe at the spoon and lean toward the spoon once they see it. When baby is full, they may spit out familiar food, turn their head away, or slow down their pace. Responding appropriately to these cues lets your child eat as much or as little as they need


is for Make Every Bite Count
Young children’s diets don’t have room for foods that are high in calories, but provide little nutrition—like sugary drinks and empty calorie snacks. Instead make every bite count—you can start at snack time with whole grain snacks, fruit and veggie pouches, and whole milk yogurt blends for baby.


is for Nutrition
Proper nutrition is key for baby to get a healthy start in life, but it can be scary to parents who think they need to be perfect at every meal. Remember that it’s better to look at baby’s diet—which, when incorporating solids should consist of a variety of foods from each food group to get all the nutrients baby needs—over the period of a week to help take the stress off both baby and parents. Aren’t sure how to break that down into real life meals? That’s why Gerber—which has been making foods for babies for 90 years—continues to stay at the forefront of nutrition science so they can provide the best fortified and nutrient-dense products, education materials and easy-to-use tools and resources (including Dotti, PRC, on-staff RDs, a menu planner and more). Doing the homework, so you don’t have to!


is for Oatmeal
Oatmeal and other infant cereals are a top nutrition choice for the first year because infant cereal has iron and other nutrients babies need and a smooth texture is great for developing eating skills. Also, pro-tip: when introducing cereals you can mix with breastmilk or formula—whatever is more familiar to your baby! This will help your baby adjust to the new taste of their oatmeal cereal. And for more texture and flavor, mix dry infant cereal into fruit or veggie purees, or even use it as an ingredient in recipes.


is for Puree
Purees are a great food for baby, partly because there’s nothing as delightful as watching your new-to-solids baby discover new foods, and wholesome purees are a developmentally appropriate and safe way to jump into the world of flavors. If you are thinking of making your baby’s food at home, consider this: store-bought baby food manufacturers follow high level safety standards to ensure quality, safe food for baby. It’s also super important that the purees are the right consistency for baby’s stage. From apple to pear and zucchini, butternut squash to parsnips, there’s a variety of purees your baby will love in Gerber’s 1st® and 2nd® foods lines that is just the right consistency for baby to practice their tongue movements, and advance their eating skills. Just don’t forget the bib!


is for Quality
We know the health and safety of your little one is your highest priority–and it should be for your baby food brand’s too. That’s why Gerber foods must pass more than 100 quality checks before they can be sold. These start even before farmers select the fields where they will grow their produce and continues through growing, cooking and putting food in the jar. Every Gerber food and beverage is top notch, and if any products don’t make the quality and safety standards, they won’t make it to your table.


is for Root Vegetables
Root vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots are packed with nutrition, but because they grow in soil which can absorb elements like cadmium and lead from the surrounding environment and are commonly consumed, they deserve special attention. This is why aiming for a variety of fruits and veggies is important (like in blended fruit and vegetable products) to ensure great nutrition, minimize heavy metals in the diet, and get tasty, nutrient-packed foods into little, growing bellies.


is for Spoon Feeding
Mealtime looks fun to your baby, and they’ll want to join in when they see you eat. Once your little one knows what the spoon is, they’ll open their mouth when they see it. They may want to hold the spoon, play with it or put it in their mouth, and they should. Handling the spoon in any way is fun practice for tools they will use when they’re older, like crayons, pencils and forks!


is for Traceability
Gerber worries about where your little one’s food comes from, so you don’t have to. In fact, thanks to more than 20 years of practice, they can trace 100% of their fruits and veggies not only to the farms where they were grown, but to the very fields. The relationships they have with their farmers, coupled with their internal team of experts, enables the Gerber Agriculture team of experts to visit farms to check on things like crop growth (ensuring plants are healthy), as well as testing soil, crop testing for taste and nutrition, overseeing crop rotation practices and overseeing harvest timing of the farming operation. Like helicopter parenting, for food!


is for Unique
As in, every baby is different. What works for one child may not work for another. From colic to allergies, sitting up to flavor preference, resist the urge to compare your baby’s progress to another, or expect that babies and toddlers will tackle things the same way—even if they’re siblings. Your child will give you all the cues you need to understand their needs, trust us.


is for Variety
When your baby is ready to start solids, introducing of a variety of foods is the foundation of a healthy diet. Offer baby a variety of protein foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy), colorful fruits and vegetables, and whole grains and to provide key nutrients, and establish good nutrition habits right from the start.


is for Wait on These
We've all been there—your tot is curious about something you're eating like sweets, chips and soda, so you give them some. Make sure these foods are only the once-in-a-while treats they are meant to be, and be extra aware about how they present a choking hazard for baby. Since taste preferences develop early in life, avoid feeding infants unnecessary foods and beverages with added sugars and limit those higher in sodium.


is for X-tra Time Spent Reading Labels
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the choices out there to feed your growing baby, especially when you factor in how many ingredients are listed on some labels. But taking the time to read those labels and know what your child is eating is important. For example, Gerber uses no added sweeteners, artificial flavors or colors in its fruit and veggie purees as well as makes tasty toddler meals that are mindful of sodium.


is for You're Not Alone
It really does take a village, even when that village may be more virtual than in-person these days. Gerber offers 24/7 support on their website—always awake whenever you and baby need a helping hand—and a team that includes a certified lactation counselor, sleep coach and registered dietitians available for complimentary appointments. So while that 3 AM feeding may feel lonely, you’ve always got someone in your corner.


is for Zucchini
From Banana Pear Zucchini pouches to Apple Zucchini Peach natural 2nd foods, zucchini is easy to fold in with other flavors. Fun fact? Although widely thought of as a vegetable, zucchini squash is actually a fruit. The more you know, mama.

This article is sponsored by Gerber. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.