Here’s the good news: Many early foods for babies can simply be pulled out and prepared in some very simple way. They tend to like separate little servings of various items to sample at first. Though pediatricians do note that offering one new food at a time allows caregivers the opportunity o rule out / identify any allergies.
I’m talking pulling something out of the fridge or pantry and simply, like, opening it up, microwaving it a bit, or cubing it up into tiny little baby-sized bites.
With my first skipping off toward preschool (and simple toddler lunches always on my mind) and my second little one toddlering it up tough, my life is sort of all about feeding babies. And although these days we’re onto the fun of things like pizza and sandwiches, the period in which we were just starting to offer solid foods is fresh in my mind.
I opted for some premade baby foods, and largely gravitated toward simply “real people” food that I could offer in small, soft, or gum-able pieces for my little loves.
It got easier and easier along the way to view the whole thing as simply offering them opportunities to try, and to not worry too much about whether or not they cleared their trays.
Food can be fun! So as your baby grows bigger and the time comes to offer some solids, try out some of these 15 easy starter foods under 20 minutes. Stick around and we'll also cover 5 to make time for... just becaues they take all day doesn't make them not worth a try!
20 Pasta Aplenty
I remember having one or two “aha!” moments of sorts during the early-eating days with my first baby when I’d be talking to our family pediatrician or something and realize that I could probably be offering many more “real people” foods than I currently was.
There are some things that can be mashed between the gums, even (sometimes long) before there are molars in place to help break down food in the mouth.
I mean, keep a close eye on your kiddo, of course, while eating, and talk to their doc for guidance in first foods and all things, but consider, for example, pasta.
Many types can be boiled on the stove in something like 10 minutes, with thinner varieties taking something like 3-5 minutes.
Served plain, sauced, or with a bit of butter, it can make a delicious early meal, whether it’s cut-up spaghetti strands or little shells or macaroni.
19 Crumbly Crackers
True story: We have watched a lot of The Great British Baking Show over the last few years, and my hubs picked up on how simple it really seemed to make your own crackers at home.
It was seriously just mixing a handful (if that) of ingredients in a bowl, rolling it out thin, and baking on a sheet pan. Done.
But I really love, too, the crumbly, buttery, wheat varieties from the grocery store. It's as easy as buying a box and opening it!
Having foods like this to offer babies and really young children can be important because it gives moms something to easily have along when out of the house.
Very young eaters may enjoy sort of sucking on crackers or gumming them.
They sell special, fancy rice “teething” wafers, too, if you’re into trying that.
18 Peanut Butter, Baby
Neither of my little ones has a nut allergy, and so peanut butter has become a very important part of our eating life.
Sure, now they often eat it from little sandwiches on soft wheat bread, but from the early days and up through now, they like to lick that stuff right off the spoon.
I LOVE how easy it is to just have it around, something I can count on to get something in those little tummies.
The other glorious options to consider, here, are all the other nutbutters commonly available, too, as well as even the option of making one yourself, with a little time and food processing (or in those fun machines they have at some health food stores).
17 Make Time For: Beef Stew
Now, this one I have actually made, and let me say, even if your baby doesn’t end up being a huge fan of it the first time or two you make it, I’m willing to bet you and other family members will be glad to have it for dinner and leftovers for days.
It’s just quite simple beef stew, with russet (or other) potatoes, stew beef, broth or just water, onions, carrots, celery… and perhaps some other seasonings that suit your fancy.
It takes a while, either boiled on the stove or simmering in the slow cooker, but the initial prep is not too complicated, just getting the potatoes and other ingredients washed and cut down to manageable sizes.
I love that the smell of it simmering is something I remember loving as a kid, and I like to think I’m creating a nice memory for my little ones when we make it.
Oh yeah, and even the meat is sooo tender after a long cook time — perfect for early eaters.
16 Garbanzo Beans (AKA Chickpeas)
Dude, I am such a huge bean fan. I am a meat eater, but I don’t tend to have all that much of it, and I don’t’ find that I have a lot of time to plan meals around shopping for it and preparing it, either.
Beans, however, I find delicious and approachable. Although I opt for the canned variety almost all of the time (you can find BPA-free cans, these days, too), I have been meaning to get into actually cooking some up myself. Sounds like a good slow cooker application, perhaps…
But I digress. Beans, when cooked or out of the can, are often soft and can be easily gummed. I like that these little nugs of protein have some staying power, as opposed to the common fruits and veggies that are so easy to offer as first foods.
Garbanzos are my fave, but kidney, black, or pinto beans are nice and soft and small for little mouths, too.
15 Cheese, Please!
Oh, cheese… Who doesn’t love you?
While its salty and tempting taste make it easy for young’uns to love, moms just may love the calories and nutrition it provides. (As long as it’s offered, as with all things, as part of a balanced diet that includes fiber, says this mom, who has noticed that it might just contribute to constipation, in the younger set, in any case.)
Mine loved extra-sharp cheddar right from the get-go, and that’s great because it’s what we pretty much always have around.
In thin slices or teeny, tiny cubes, cheese can be a tempting and scrumptious early food for babies, indeed, and when shredded, it may get messy (read: all over your floor and down the front of that onesie), but it sure tastes great!
14 Scrambled Eggs
My husband often eats them (and taught me to enjoy the fried variety for the first time). I have them for dinner many times each month. Both of my tiny tots enjoy them now and then.
And they are soooo easy to just keep in the fridge (and so affordable, as far as protein goes)!
Eggs, I’ve found, were most enticing to my young’uns when they were scrambled or hardboiled, then offered in little pieces.
The texture may take a bit of getting used to, but it’s nice and soft compared to, say, most meats.
A little salt for seasoning or even ketchup for dipping sauce, if you’re feeling brave, may truly delight those tiny taste buds.
13 Make Time For: Marinara Meat Sauce
Disclaimer: I have never personally made this from scratch myself, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t hope to at some point. It just means that Trader Joes has a really yummy little frozen serving of the stuff that is as easy as microwaving.
Think of the deliciousness and the smells that will fill your house if you cook from scratch any or all components of a tomato meat sauce.
I had to include this one today because the aforementioned Bolognese from the store was the main way we got our first baby to eat meat. She gobbled it up unlike any other protein we had yet tried.
Why? I suspect because it smells and tastes really, really good, and babies are people, too!
Maybe I’ll try slow-cooking some meat in a jarred sauce as a first step in the less-lazy direction…
12 Apple Sauce
Honestly, I did grow up in a household where making applesauce would be a day-long (or sometimes longer, if you count all the steps) affair.
There was picking the apples from the trees outside, coring them, cooking them, and grinding them into sauce, sometimes with some seasoning, and then the canning process.
I don’t have a single apple tree, but I do have grocery stores nearby, all of which sell both the jarred and pouched varieties of this easy-to-approach, mushy first food.
You can buy the expensive baby food jars if you really want to, but I tended to go for the jar of sugar-free stuff and then offer some in a dish.
11 Oatmeal Cereal
This was the central “first food” for both of my little ones, as was instructed by their pediatrician: baby cereal mixed with breast milk. (Some moms may be using formula here.)
Oatmeal was our go-to because it seemed more hearty and nutritious than the rice stuff, but there are a variety of grain options and brands out there these days.
If you’ve ever made instant mashed potatoes from a box before, it’s kinda like that, with tiny little flakes that get hydrated and made into a lovely mush once you stir in the milk.
I have to think my babe loved this one because it had those flavors of mama’s milk, slightly warmed, and it could be self-scooped with a little spoon when she was still very small.
10 Babies Heart Bananas
What would I do without these yellow-peeled wonders?
They seem to be just about one of the most affordable forms of produce out there, they taste sweet, and just check out the nutrition facts on one of these bad boys.
On top of all of this, they are soft as can be when ripe, and so a favorite food around our house both to offer in little bits on that high chair tray very early on and also to hand over to our toddler when she seems to be getting hangry.
If there is not currently a bunch on our counter, something seems a little off.
9 The Amazing Avocado
I go through phases of being willing to splurge for these green wonders and then giving them a break, but man, let me just say that I have had great success feeling healthy and fit myself when eating something like one avocado almost every single day.
The other exciting thing? When ripe, they are soft and easy to eat as can be, even if you don’t have any teeth yet. This makes them pretty much amazing to offer as a first or early food, seeing as it’s as simple as slicing one in half and scooping out some of that green goodness.
I like to serve it with at least a little seasoning, almost always a bit of garlic salt (seeing as my little ones aren’t quite ready for the big squirt of sriracha that I tend to enjoy with it).
8 Make Time For: Homemade Hummus
One time shortly after college, I decided to put some canned garbanzo beans in the blender with some seasoning and oil and see if the result was anything like hummus. (Not really.) I guess I was just excited about the blender from the wedding registry or something.
But dude, hummus is good, and after watching the old Good Eats show on making it recently, I believe aside from the aforementioned components, what may have aided me are a food processor, some additional seasonings, and tahini (sort of like sesame paste, as I understand it).
I bought tubs of the stuff and offered it as a fairly popular starter food for my little ones (and loved it as a quick meal when I was pregnant, by the way), but someday soon, I shall tackle the task of preparing it myself… Someday…
7 Yummy Yogurt
You could drive yourself mad trying to choose a yogurt with all the various options now widely available, from pouches to organic cups to Greek and beyond.
Or you could buy something that you normally would for yourself or your household and give that a shot. Just sayin’.
I’ve offered a bit of it all, and it’s nice, of course, because it’s smooth and just a wonderful texture for a first food for someone just learning to consume something that’s not straight-up breast milk or formula.
The most affordable little fruity cups at Trader Joe’s ended up being the ones my little one loves.
Even very young eaters may delight in sampling it with a finger, eating a bit from a spoon, or, sure, smearing it all over their tray…
6 Smoothies, Fresh Or Frozen
Whether spooned in or offered with a straw, smoothies simply make sense for many moms when it comes to offering early foods. It’s a great way to blend up things like fruit, sometimes even veggies (that whole kale trend…), yogurt, and more into one quite yummy meal.
I’ve gone through phases of having them every morning myself, and during one such phase, my early eater decided to start stealing them pretty much every morning.
I was OK with that!
Ours were quite basic, with mixed organic frozen berries, a bit of orange juice, Greek yogurt, and a banana tossed in the blender before hitting that button, pouring, and drinking down.
5 Fresh Fruit
I was so happy to discover that my first baby loved nectarines and peaches as much as I did, maybe even more. When they were in season, we went through a LOT of them, purchasing a dozen or more at once and chowing down on more than one each day as they became ripe.
Fruit — soft, sweet, and juicy — is about as easy an early food as you can get.
Strawberries, blueberries, and more can all be quite delicious and enticing, too.
Because I like fruit that’s fresh and tastes delicious and perfect, I would just buy what was in season that I currently thought tasted good, then offer some to the little ones, too, washed well and cut up as necessary.
4 Sautéed Squash
Crookneck squash was one of the first cooked veggies I fell in love with as a kid, and it was a pretty idyllic experience that I had with it, too.
My dad actually grew the little yellow sweeties in the garden, and I remember clearly washing them off together, slicing them up, and sautéing them in a bit of butter or oil in a frying pan. Simple as that, with a little pinch of salt for some seasoning.
They get quite soft when cooked just a short while (after being sliced thin), and can then be cut up even smaller for a baby to sample, too.
I thought of them for this piece today because they taste sweet, and sweet is easy for taste buds to love.
3 Potato Perfection
Potatoes are so simple to make that they are one of the first foods I recall making for my own darn self as a kid. I would grab one out of the sack in the pantry, rinse it off, and microwave it until a fork could go easily in and out of it. Done.
Whether you take this approach, bake them in the oven, or boil them up, the result is soft, starchy, and easy to love.
Just a bit of melted butter and salt on top and, oh, man…
It’s about as fast and easy as it gets, and while we mainly do the whole-grain thing around here for ourselves and our little ones, sometimes, we’ve just gotta potato it up, be they mashed, boiled, baked, or microwaved.
2 Make Time For: Home-Baked Bread
I’d like to think that if I didn’t work from home while also caring for two tiny children, I’d do things like bake my own fresh bread every week. But maybe I just need to stop making excuses and go for it already — because the smell of bread rising and baking in your home is pretty much the best thing ever.
I like to think about food for babies and young kids as similar to food for anyone. If you are smelling something as it grows more and more delicious as the hours pass, are you not all the more tempted to try it?
Babies and toddlers might love gumming or gnawing on a slice of the fresh stuff while it’s still warm. Consider smaller bread rolls for easy handheld foods, or even crusty bread sticks for tiny teethers.
1 Make Time For: Roasted Turkey
Well, I finally have the roasting pan and the wire rack, now, so I’ll have to try to cook my own turkeys and chickens more often. With the holidays quickly approaching, I guess time will tell if I make good on this or not…
It’s another thing that smells delicious and tempting, so I, again, like that aspect of cooking it yourself at home for your youngest (and all other) family members.
Also, sliced turkey was one of both of my babies favorite first foods, and I like that if I cooked it myself at home, I could be more in control of the source and preparation for the meat (as opposed to deli or sliced meat purchased at the store).
Little bits of savory goodness for them, sandwiches for days for me… Score!
Sources: This one mom-of-two’s experiences.