Tackling the Extras
OK, that's the basics. What about the "extras"—the gravy, cranberry sauce, rolls, pumpkin pie?
Cranberry sauce: Frazier and Font both gave their daughters cranberry sauce (sieve cranberries through a strainer, then puree). While cranberries rarely cause allergic reactions, they are acidic, so keep servings to a tablespoon and add a teaspoon of apple juice to cut the tartness.
Gravy: Skip the gravy. Homemade gravy is composed of starches and fat, and commercial versions often have preservatives. Both fill up Baby without providing the nutrients she needs.
Pumpkin pie: Even though the whole eggs and cow's milk used in baked goods probably would not cause your baby problems, Kosloski does not advocate giving babies pumpkin pie. "Besides the eggs and milk, it has lots of sugar," she says. If you'd like your baby to feel a part of things during dessert, offer her 1/4 cup of pureed pumpkin mixed with a tablespoon of formula or breast milk, or mash a baked apple and add a dash of cinnamon.
Rolls: For babies 12 months and up, a quarter of a soft, whole-wheat roll, torn into small pieces, gives them a grain serving without overfilling their tummies.
Seasonings: In general, avoid adding butter, salt, or sugar to the foods you give your baby. Though the food might seem unpalatable to you, babies tend to like bland foods—and it's much healthier!
Baby Food Safety
Safety for babies at the Thanksgiving dinner table revolves around two issues: eliminating choking hazards and preventing allergic reactions to food. Although babies 10 to 12 months and up can usually manage finely minced foods, it's important not to leave them alone while they're eating. Seat your baby in a high chair next to you so you can see exactly what's going into her mouth and be ready to intervene should she start to choke or put too much into her mouth at one time.
Some foods are unsafe for your little eater, even if she has teeth. Here's a good rule of thumb: If it's crunchy, it's a choking hazard. For that reason, omit the following foods from your baby's Thanksgiving meal:
- Stuffing (many contain celery, nuts, or onion chunks)
- Raw veggie platters (at this age, all veggies should be thoroughly cooked and soft)
- Pecan pie
- Nuts of any kind
Here are some other finger foods to avoid because of their shape and/or firmness:
- Whole grapes
- Hard or dense breads and fruitcakes
"Keep the diet simple, at least until around 18 months or so," Kosloski says. "If you have any questions about what's in a prepared dish, just avoid it."
Reduce Allergy Risks
Allergic reactions to food at the Thanksgiving table can be minimized or prevented in several ways:
- Know which foods pose the greatest allergy threats to children under a year. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the worst offenders are cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (including walnuts and cashews), fish, and other seafood. Other common allergy inducers include strawberries, raspberries, chocolate, citrus fruit and juices, tomatoes, and wheat products. Honey can cause infant botulism in children under 12 months.
- Plan ahead for any new foods your baby is likely to encounter at Thanksgiving and begin introducing these, one at a time, in small portions, for three to five days each. If she has no reaction to a particular food, you can assume she is not allergic.