Meal prepping is a great way to save time and set yourself up for an easier week. If you can, try planning some meals ahead of time and doing some cooking in advance so that you can reheat things during the week rather than cooking daily.
By the time your little one is 9 months old, they can eat a lot of what you’re eating. When you prepare a meal for yourself or the rest of the family, see what you can do to make it baby-friendly. Here are some tips:
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- Leave the salt out until you portion out your little one’s helping first.
- Cut foods into safe sizes for your baby to consume.
- If you’re using a spicy or high sodium condiment, set aside some food for your baby before adding it in.
- Check the texture of the meal yourself to make sure it’s soft enough for your baby. Pinching a food between your fingers is a great way to see whether they can squish it with their gums.
To reduce their choking risk, cut food small enough for them to grab and bite, but not so small that they can swallow it whole. Some raw fruits and vegetables, like apples and carrots, are also choking hazards because they’re too hard to bite into.
It’s important to prepare your little one’s food using safe cooking practices to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
Wash your hands and switch cutting boards when handling raw meat to avoid cross contamination. Cook meats, fish, and eggs to safe temperatures — 145-165°F (62.8-73.9°C) — depending on the food (14).
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Be sure to refrigerate food soon after finishing it to preserve it. It’s also a good practice to date leftovers so you know when to throw them away. Most food lasts a few days in the refrigerator or 1-2 months in the freezer (15).
By the time your child reaches this age, you may have already begun to introduce some common allergens, such as peanut butter, eggs, and fish. If you haven’t yet, now is a great time, as introducing them earlier on may help prevent an allergy (16, 17, 18).
It’s a good idea to introduce allergens one at a time and wait a few days in between so that you can monitor your baby for any possible reaction (19).
Signs of an allergic reaction include (20):
- wheezing or coughing
- swelling in the lips or throat
- a runny nose
- itchy skin or a rash
- diarrhea, vomiting, or other signs of stomach upset
If you notice any signs of a mild allergic reaction, such as a rash or upset stomach, call your pediatrician. Call 911 if the symptoms are more severe, such as if you suspect anaphylaxis, which usually involves wheezing, hives, drooling, and drowsiness (21).
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Offering packed foods to your baby can be a convenient way to feed them when you’re short on time. We recommend offering a variety of whole foods whenever possible, but having some packaged items in the pantry can come in handy.
When shopping for packaged baby-friendly foods, look for foods that are low in sodium, added sugars, additives, and preservatives. Additionally, be sure they don’t contain any of the foods that should be avoided in the first year, such as honey.
Lastly, remember that mealtimes should be a fun, low pressure experience. Try not to force your baby to eat more if they are showing signs of feeling full. If they refuse a food, you can try offering it again another time.
Repeated exposure to new foods and maintaining a low stress environment has been shown to promote food acceptance among little ones (22).
Properly handling, preparing, and storing foods for your baby will help prevent choking and possible foodborne illnesses. Do your best to keep mealtimes fun and relaxed, and let your baby take the lead on how much to eat.
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