The Perfect First Vegetable for Baby

You’re So Sweet Potatoes

What would Thanksgiving be like without a sweet potato casserole? But don’t just think of this nutritious vegetable around the holidays! Sweet potatoes are also a great first food for Baby.

After Baby is ready for more than cereal, vegetables are commonly the next solid food introduced, according to Peggy O’Shea, a Boston-based registered dietitian and a member of the Massachusetts Dietetic Association board of directors. “Sweet potatoes are a good choice because they have a soft consistency and can be easily strained and finely mashed,” she says. “Also, orange and yellow vegetables are generally some of the easiest to digest.” Plus, the sweet taste means most babies will be excited to eat them.

Sweet potatoes are also a nutritious choice for Baby. “They are high in beta-carotene and also provide a good amount of vitamin C and vitamin B6,” says O’Shea.

O’Shea reminds parents to remember that introducing new foods is a process. “Don’t be discouraged if Baby doesn’t like sweet potatoes the first time he or she tries them,” she says. “If Baby refuses the sweet potatoes, try again – even after a couple of days – but don’t push or force Baby to eat them. It may be that they never end up like sweet potatoes, or it may just take time to get accustomed to this new food. Just as adults may be apprehensive about trying new food, babies, too, may take time to like new foods.”

If there are other foods Baby has tried and likes, such as applesauce, try mixing a bit of it with the sweet potatoes to allow some familiarity with the taste.

When serving sweet potatoes to younger babies, be sure they are very soft, strained, and “mushy” due to choking hazards. “Make certain that the sweet potatoes are very soft and strained when initially introducing them,” says O’Shea. “Remember that babies will push them around their mouth with their tongue before swallowing, so they should be very mushy.” And always feed babies while seated – don’t hand them food while they are on the go to minimize choking. “By the time they are toddlers, soft pieces of sweet potato are generally well tolerated,” O’Shea adds.

Although not too familiar, babies can develop an orange/yellow tint to their skin, called carotenemia, from eating many foods high in beta-carotene, says O’Shea. “It [is] generally harmless, but it is something to keep in mind for parents of kids who eat lots of yellow and orange vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes,” she says.

Here are some delicious sweet potato recipes to try on your baby!

Pureed Sweet Potatoes

1 1/4 cups cooked sweet potatoes

2/3 cups water, breast milk, or formula

Cut sweet potatoes into pieces and cook until tender. Place into a blender and puree for one minute to a smooth texture. This should produce 1 1/2 cups.

Roasted Sweet Potato Puree

One large sweet potato or yam

Water, formula, or breast milk

Wash the potato and pierce it all over with a fork. Bake at 350 degrees F for about one hour or until tender. Remove and allow to cool slightly.

Cut the potato in half and scoop out the insides into a blender. Add 3 to 6 tablespoons of water, formula, or breast milk to reach proper consistency for your baby.

Sweet Potato and Fruit Purée

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes

1/4 cup dried pears or apricots, finely chopped

One teaspoon butter, optional

Put the sweet potatoes and dried fruit in a steamer basket over boiling water. Cover and cook until very tender, about 20 minutes. Place in a blender along with butter, if using, and pulse until smooth.

Here are some recipes for your toddler!

Pineapple Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Four large sweet potatoes washed and pricked with a fork

One can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained

1/4 cup orange juice

Two tablespoons margarine, melted

Salt and pepper, to taste (optional)

Bake the sweet potatoes at 400 degrees F for about one hour or until tender. Remove and let cool slightly. Carefully cut a slit lengthwise in the potato. Gently open it up slightly and remove the inside, leaving the shell. Set the shots on a baking sheet.

Combine the removed potato, pineapple, orange juice, margarine, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl. Mix well. Spoon the mixture into the shells. Return to oven and bake another 15 to 20 minutes. Makes four servings.

Sweet Potato Fries

One large or two small potatoes per person

Vegetable cooking spray

Peel and cut the potatoes into desired-sized French fries. Place on a roasting pan. Spray lightly with vegetable cooking spray, tossing to coat. Bake at 450 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes, turning after 10 minutes.

Give Me S’more Sweet Potatoes Bites

Instead of s’mores, serve these snacks packed with vitamins and beta-carotene!

One medium sweet potato, peeled

Eight cinnamon-sugar graham cracker squares

Eight marshmallows halved crosswise

Heat broiler and place sweet potato in a bowl with 1/4 inch of water. Cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for five minutes or until fork-tender. Cool and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices.

Place crackers sugar side down on the baking sheet. Top four crackers with potato slices and the remaining four with four marshmallow halves each. Broil 6 inches from heat 45 to 60 seconds, or until marshmallows are browned. Put sandwich halves together and serve.

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