Rice or oatmeal baby cereal isn’t the universal staple of a baby’s first solid food that it once was, but it’s still many children’s first exposure to the wide world of food beyond breast milk or formula. This makes sense – it’s bland enough not to offend Baby’s somewhat-less-than-sophisticated palate, and it generally comes fortified with iron, which can be especially important for breastfed babies as they get older, as breast milk isn’t fortified with iron the way formula is. The problem with rice cereal’s inoffensive, bland taste, though, is that it doesn’t prepare her for the variety of flavors that will be in her life as she grows up. And aside from the iron fortification, it doesn’t provide any real nutritional value, which becomes increasingly important as Baby starts to get more of her nutrients from solids, and less from breast milk or formula.
Cereal with mashed vegetables
Alright, so it sounds like a bit of a cheat, but one really good way to get Baby to move past the rice cereal is to combine the rice cereal with something else. The familiar flavor and texture will help ease her into trying something new, and by using mashed vegetables, like sweet potato, or boiled and mashed carrots or peas, you can wait to introduce sweeter beginning foods like fruits or sweet potatoes until she is already used to vegetables, so she will be less likely to object to eating her greens later.
Canned, cut up, or steamed and mashed fruit
Babies are born with a taste for breast milk, or for formula designed to mimic breast milk. And because breast milk is naturally sweet, when they’re switching over to solid food, they’re naturally drawn to other sweet things, which may be part of why some of them have a hard time moving on from sweet-carbohydrate-rich rice cereal. You know what’s sweeter than rice cereal, though? Fruit. Your average blueberry may not be much of a sugar-fest compared to whatever neon-colored candy is popular by the time Baby starts trick-or-treating, but to your little one, who hasn’t tasted almost anything yet, fruit tends to have the kind of appeal that cotton candy might, a few years down the road. Some experts advise waiting to introduce fruit until you’ve already established a diet including a few vegetables for her, because introducing fruit first can make it harder to introduce vegetables later, but sometimes when you’re trying to coax her over to try solids, fruit can be exactly what you need. As long as you make sure it’s soft enough for Baby to gum and small enough not to be a choking hazard, there’s no problem with starting with fruit.
For babies who are a little skeptical about the texture even of finely mashed or ground vegetables, or of soft, canned fruits, the smooth texture of yogurt can be a great place to start. And like with mashed vegetables, yogurt can be mixed with rice cereal as a way to give babies reluctant to move past the cereal a little bit of what they want while still exposing them to new tastes. It’s important to note that even many baby yogurts have added sweeteners that aren’t necessary for young children, and the best way to avoid them is to go for plain, unflavored natural or organic yogurt.