Preparing Favorites for Baby
Angie Frazier, a mom of two from Troy, New Hampshire, found it easy to prepare traditional Thanksgiving foods her infant daughters could digest and enjoy. "I simply mashed peas and cooked baby carrots with a fork to give them a healthy vegetable," she says. "For the turkey, which tends to be stringy when torn apart, I cut up small, manageable bites."
By 6 to 8 months, babies can manage strained, mashed, or pureed vegetables and fruits, says Wendy Kosloski, a licensed nurse with Amherst Pediatrics in Amherst, Massachusetts. At 8 to 10 months, pureed meats can be added. As Baby gets more teeth—usually not before a year—these can be minced.
The trick is to cook everything to a very soft consistency, says Denise Font of Miami, whose two daughters celebrated their first Thanksgiving meals with mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, and turkey.
If you're preparing the holiday meal at home, you can scoop out small portions of veggies and meat for straining, pureeing, or mashing before you add salt, sugar, or spices. If you're on the road, you'll need to eyeball each prepared dish for its suitability. But, with the flick of a fork, you can scrape the marshmallow topping from Aunt Sue's sweet potatoes, add a tablespoon or two of water, and make a fine mash Baby will enjoy.
The following Thanksgiving favorites are a snap to make baby-friendly:
- Sweet or mashed potatoes and squash: Bake or boil these until quite tender, add a little water, and mash.
- Peas: Boil these until they "squish" easily, then mash or puree. At 10 months, Baby can enjoy these as a finger food.
- Green beans: Steam until very soft, add a little water, and puree.
- Apples or pears: Core, peel, and bake these, then mash.
- Turkey: Remove the skin and trim off any fat. Then, cut into very small pieces for babies 10 to 12 months and up. For children under 10 months, add a tablespoon of water and puree.
Healthy Choices and Portion Size
Babies don't share our sense of Thanksgiving as a day to stuff themselves silly. Their only requirement is a meal varied enough to supply the daily nutrients they need. Fortunately, traditional Thanksgiving fare offers plenty of healthy choices. Just keep servings small. Experts recommend the following amounts for babies 8 to 12 months:
- Turkey: Serve an 1/8 to 1/4 cup. A great source for protein, tryptophan (an essential amino acid), selenium, and vitamins B3 and B6.
- Vegetables: Serve a 1/4 to 1/2 cup. Carrots, winter squash, potatoes (sweet or white), and peas offer your baby potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, calcium, iron, niacin, folate, and vitamins A and C. Green beans have vitamin K and manganese in addition to potassium, folate, iron, and vitamins A and C. (Note: Fresh spinach is generally not recommended for babies under 12 months because it is high in nitrates.)
- Fruits: Serve 1/4 to 1/2 cup. Apples are rich in vitamins A, C, and E, as well as potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium. Pears contain vitamins C and K and copper.
These are daily amounts, so if your baby is eating two vegetables, you may want to cut down on both portions. But don't get overly worried about how much Baby is eating—or not eating. It's one meal. Font says she simply put a little of each food on the high chair tray and let her daughters eat what they wanted.