What is the best way to shop for baby food without feeling overwhelmed? Adjusting as a first time parent to grocery shopping for your baby is a big change. All of a sudden you have to think about not only what are you going to feed yourself all day and all week, but what do you need to buy for your baby?
You’ll be thinking about what they can have, what is safe? What is healthiest for them? Are the jars and pouches in the baby aisle my best option or my only option?
There is plenty that your baby can have that won’t say the word “baby” on the package. But, understandably, it gets more challenging to know what’s safe without that guidance.
Note: this post is sponsored by Stonyfield; all opinions are my own.
Think outside the box (errr, jar)
You don’t need to automatically go to the baby aisle at the grocery store or Target to shop for your baby’s meals. The first place I would start, as a Registered Dietitian, is the fresh produce section. Here’s the first reason why.
Serve a variety of foods to your baby
Each stage with your baby can feel long, especially when you’re exhausted! But when you think about it, the food introduction phase is just a few months. And the more variety you can introduce them to, during this early period, the better.
The more variety they eat early on, the more likely they are to continue with variety as they get older. This is important because it helps them get a well-balanced, healthy diet!
You might be hesitant to dive into a wide range of foods for your baby, though. You might have heard that you should only introduce single ingredient foods, every couple of days.
But this advice is outdated. Whether you’re still on purees or have moved to finger foods, you can serve mixed dishes. For example, say you roast a big pan of vegetables – carrots, potatoes, parsnips, turnips, and squash. It’s okay for your baby to try all of these at one meal. Make sure they are soft enough and cut into developmentally appropriate sized pieces.
Fresh produce for babies
We all know it’s important to get fruits and veggies in every day. The reason I love fresh produce for babies is that it’s something you can make for the whole family. Your job of preparing food is way easier when you don’t have to make separate meals for everyone!
You probably already know some of the easiest fruits and vegetables to serve to babies. The ones that are already soft, and easily mashed, or cut into bite size pieces for babies who are ready, with no cooking involved.
Some that are great to have in your weekly rotation include:
Plus, veggies that are easy to steam or roast to a soft texture to puree or serve in small pieces:
- Sweet potatoes
- Squash (butternut, kabocha, acorn)
- Beets (yellow beets are less messy!)
Toss roasted veggies in olive oil, avocado oil, or a nut or seed oil to add healthy fats when serving.
Tips for the freshest produce
Grocery stores typically move the oldest produce to the front or top of the stack so shoppers choose those first. For the freshest picks, look towards the back or bottom!
And for berries specifically, I always flip the package over to look for mold, crushed berries, or a lot of condensation. If there’s any mold, do not buy it! Even if it looks like it is in just one section or on one berry, there’s likely more that you’re not able to see.
Crushed berries and condensation are signs of moisture, and moisture causes berries to go bad more quickly.
Shop the perimeter
Have you ever heard this tip – to shop the perimeter of the grocery store? It’s not that the inner aisles are bad. But there are more ultra-processed and less nutritious foods down those aisles, in general, than what you’ll find on the perimeter.
We already covered fresh fruits and vegetables. What else will you find on the perimeter? You’ll usually find proteins, including meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products.
Meat and fish for babies
Getting enough iron is important for babies who are eating solid foods, especially if they are breastfed. There is more than one type of iron in food. Heme iron is the most bioavailable, meaning, your baby’s body can use it more effectively. Non-heme iron is still beneficial, but is not as bioavailable. Meat and fish contain heme iron – the one that the body prefers.
So even though it may be strange or challenging to serve at first, meat and fish have many nutritional benefits for babies.
When they are developmentally ready to move beyond purees, braised or stewed meat is a great option because it is so soft and tender. Or, ground meat, like in meatloaf or meatballs. You can use any type of ground meat – chicken, turkey, beef, bison, lamb, etc.
Salmon is my favorite first fish for babies because it’s high in omega-3s, and low in mercury, a heavy metal that should be limited for babies.
Though you’ve been told to avoid milk for your baby, that doesn’t mean you need to skip the whole dairy section.
The reason babies should not have milk is because they nutritionally need breastmilk and/or formula. Milk does not have enough of the nutrients that a baby needs. Formula and breastmilk contain a wider variety of vitamins and minerals. Cows’ milk can also be challenging for a baby’s body to handle in large amounts due to the type of protein. Once they turn one, their body is more developed and able to handle milk.
Yogurt IS safe for babies to eat daily. I know it can seem kind of weird that yogurt is okay and milk isn’t! But as I mentioned before, milk should not be a replacement for formula or breastmilk. You can’t give your baby several ounces of milk before they are one.
But a serving of yogurt does not present the issues that milk does. So yogurt gets a green light!
The American Academy of Pediatrics says babies can start eating yogurt as early as 6 months.
And it’s such a healthy choice for babies. It has fat that supports healthy brain development, protein and calcium for good growth, and live & active cultures to support healthy digestion.
My kids both LOVED yogurt as babies, and I loved serving them Stonyfield YoBaby organic yogurt.
Find Stonyfield yogurts in a store near you here.
Cheese is another dairy item that you can serve to your baby. Good choices for baby include ricotta, fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, mascarpone, and Swiss cheese. These are all naturally low in sodium.
Once baby is ready for finger foods, I like to serve toast with mascarpone, or pasta with some tomato sauce and ricotta.
Eggs are another food you’ll find in the store’s perimeter that you can give to your baby.
Most of the egg’s nutrition is found in the yolk. You may notice differences in yolk colors, but this does not signify better or worse nutrition. The color has to do with the hen’s diet. If they eat more foods with yellow-orange pigments called xanthophylls, the yolk will be a darker orange. Lighter colored yolks still have great nutritional value.
Omelets are great for babies. I like to add in minced spinach or broccoli!
Don’t stress about baby food
Parents put a lot of pressure on themselves. Don’t feel like you need to be making new recipes every single day and spending all your time preparing foods. It’s simply not necessary for them to still get great nutrition and try a variety of foods.
Do your best to pick a few different things when you shop each week in addition to your staples. Something as simple as choosing plums instead of peaches, or raspberries instead of blueberries is all you need to do!
Disclaimer: this post is educational in nature and not a substitute for individualized advice from a medical provider. Discuss top food allergen introduction with a medical provider, especially if there is family history of food allergy, or other health conditions including atopic dermatitis or asthma.