First Bites: Superfoods for Babies and Toddlers

First Bites: Superfoods for Babies and Toddlers

by Dana Angelo White MS, RD, AT

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FIRST BITES is a "cheat sheet" approach to introducing 50 superfoods into baby and toddler diets, with tips and recipes to show parents how to raise healthy eaters for life.

is the quick and easy reference guide that all parents can keep on hand to whip up tasty and nutritious meals for their babies and toddlers in no time. Recipes are designed to help to foster healthy eating habits and create a diet filled with 50 fresh, minimally processed superfoods that are just as delicious as they are healthy. In this book, fruit and veggies take center stage in new and exciting ways, yet parents will also learn to create healthy spins on classic kid favorites like mac and cheese, pizza, chicken fingers and cupcakes.
FIRST BITES offers all the tools parents need to turn the naturally healthy foods they have on hand into delectable breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks designed to encourage youngsters to become strong and healthy eaters for a lifetime.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780698179462
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/03/2015
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 1,007,921
File size: 671 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer, nutrition and fitness consultant, and mother to a 2-year old and a 4 year old. She specializes in culinary nutrition for children and adults, recipe development and sports nutrition.
Dana works closely with chefs and authors to develop creative and healthy recipes for cookbooks, magazines and menus. She is the nutrition expert for Food and founding contributor for Food Network’s Healthy Eats Blog. She has worked as nutrition consultant for Follow Productions on seasons 2 and 3 of Bobby Deen’s show Not My Mama’s Meals. She has worked as a media spokesperson for Cooking Light Magazine and has made appearances on Good Day Street Talk, Food, Access Hollywood and GMA Health. In October 2013, Dana was named to Sharecare’s list of Top 10 Social HealthMakers on Nutrition. Dana is an assistant clinical faculty member and sports dietitian at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. She also conducts workshops and cooking demonstrations for fitness organizations and schools from preschool to college.

Dana’s recipes and articles have been featured on Food, Cooking, Diet,, Today’s Dietitian, SHAPE, SEVENTEEN, Maxim and Prevention magazine. She has created meal plans and recipes for books including Energy To Burn: The Ultimate Food and Nutrition Guide to Fuel Your Active Life (2009)Tell Me What To Eat If I Am Trying To Conceive (2011), Extra Lean (2011) and Extra Lean Family (2012) by Mario Lopez.

Read an Excerpt


From the moment your child is born you want to give them the best of everything. Every parent wants to provide nutritious and delicious things for their little ones to eat; the tricky part is deciding which foods are best and how to prepare them in a realistic amount of time. With so much conflicting nutrition info out there, parents can (and do) drive themselves bonkers, trying to make healthy choices.

By four to six months of age it is time to start introducing solids to your infant. From then on your goal should be to offer a wide variety of foods they will enjoy, while providing the nutrients they need to grow and thrive. However, many parents are often unsure of how to balance the right kinds of proteins, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and vitamins and minerals vital for proper growth and development. Plus, finding the time to prepare healthy meals can seem overwhelming, especially for new parents.

Recent nutrition research has found that most children fail to meet the recommendations for important nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, protein, fiber, and iron. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, less than 50 percent of toddlers ages two to three consume the recommended daily amount of fruits and veggies. More surprising is a 2012 survey of parents that found that most had never received advice on feeding their toddlers. This lack of knowledge can have long-term effects on young growing bodies and minds. A study published in October 2013 discovered that poor nutrition during the first five years might also lead to behavioral problems.

I created First Bites with health-conscious parents in mind. I hope you can use this book as a quick and easy reference guide that you can keep on hand to whip up tasty and nutritious meals in no time. Family-centric recipes featuring fifty astoundingly nutritious and delicious superfoods are designed to help foster healthy eating habits and create a diet filled with fresh, minimally processed foods that are just as delicious as they are healthy. In this book, fruit and veggies take center stage in new and exciting ways, yet you will also learn to create healthy spins on classic kid favorites like mac and cheese, pizza, chicken fingers, and cupcakes.


“Superfood” is an abused term. Some less reliable sources on nutrition lead people to believe that any food dubbed “super” is magical, and one bite will cure anything. My definition is much different. For a food to reach super status, it must be delicious, beautiful, unprocessed, and bursting with nutrients. Bananas and brown rice are obvious super choices, but exposing tiny palates to more unique foods like quinoa and bison also offers a plethora of good nutrition plus some exciting flavors and textures to explore. My list of fifty foods represents a well-rounded group that is affordable, easy to find, and filled with the nutrients that growing bodies need more of. Incorporating these whole foods into your household will help promote growth, energy, strength, and brain power.

In addition to the fifty superfoods, the recipes in this book are made with real foods—each crafted with taste, nutrition, and palatability in mind. There are no artificial sweeteners or highly processed junk. I choose to use mostly natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup but strongly believe that it is also OK to use regular old granulated sugar in moderation. Instead of chomping on candy and commercially baked goods in my house, we eat homemade frozen yogurt and cupcakes, made with a small amount of sugar.

There are two central themes of this book. First, a focus on the fifty superfoods, vibrant and exploding with flavor and nutrition. Second is a user-friendly guide (a handbook of sorts) for busy parents forever struggling to get healthy meals on the table.

To make this as effortless as possible, this book starts with a list of fifty foods along with a description of their nutrient content and health benefits. Each superfood listing also includes a list of the age-appropriate recipes where they are featured.

I’ve also included my best tips for grocery shopping, meal planning, and must-have kitchen tools. Recipe chapters are organized by food group (fruits and vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy and eggs). Each chapter is further divided into age-appropriate sections—six to twelve months, twelve to eighteen months, eighteen to twenty-four months, and two to three years to help parents make recipes that are best suited to the needs and preferences of their child as they grow. To wrap things up, the final chapter features menus for everything from family outings to weeknight playdates.


My kids aren’t perfect eaters—far from it! But a lifelong love of food and culinary training and an advanced degree in nutrition has led me to one conclusion about feeding kids: what is most important is spending time together in the kitchen as a family. I did not write this book to be the nutrition “expert” or guru but to share recipes that my family loves, and I hope yours will too.

There is a huge behavior component to the way that we eat. Our preferences begin to shape from the moment we are born and continue to develop with time and experience. Learning what we like and dislike is an ever-changing process. Parents should remember this, embrace it, and not fight it.

Raising healthy and happy eaters takes trial and error. It is a marathon (maybe even an Ironman), not a sprint. But hopefully, as your little ones grow to be not so little anymore, they will develop a healthy and happy relationship with food.

Like I said, my kids aren’t perfect. They have their likes and dislikes, and even with all that I have learned, there are days when my husband and I break all the rules. No matter what, we always make the extra effort not to fight with them over food. To make the family table a positive experience even on the days when the kids are driving us up the wall. Between my two daughters I have almost seven years of experience feeding in “the trenches.” I used the same feeding strategies with both, and they could not be more different. One loves any and all fruits and vegetables and would literally eat them all day long. Meat, on the other hand, is not her favorite no matter how it is prepared. My other daughter is all about meat. From lamb chops to fish—she always wants more. She is much more selective when it comes to veggies, with a small number of acceptable options on her list. They both loved eggs, then decided they hated them, then loved them again—a roller coaster of drama, that’s what little girls are made of in and out of the kitchen. There is one characteristic that they do share: they are (almost) always willing to try new things. They change every minute, and I embrace the excitement that comes along with their naturally dynamic nature.

In this book, I hope to share my knowledge, experience, and tips. I grew up loving food. From as early as I can remember I was sitting on the kitchen counter, observing, mixing, sprinkling, and learning from my parents. Taking it all in. My parents weren’t chefs, but they both came from families who loved to cook. They instilled their love of food and cooking in my brother and me without even trying.

Since my days working and creating on the kitchen counter, my love of food has led to a career in nutrition, which has only further inspired my passion: carrying on the family tradition of sharing, appreciating, and loving delicious food. In a funny way I’ve been preparing to write this book forever. These are the meals we eat in my house every day—adults included! Family-centric, quick cooking that is never overly complicated. Fresh, easy, delicious, and healthy. The superfoods are our staple ingredients, and together the family explores the variety of these key foods. When my kids drag the step stool up to the counter yelling “Can I help?” it only motivates me to create more recipes that we can explore together. Some of these recipes will be hits, others will fail miserably, but I am proud that so far my girls love to cook and love to eat. They have an education about food and where it comes from. They easily identify superfoods, like butternut squash, kale, edamame, and quinoa. They are no strangers to the garden, and our local farmer is a rock star in their eyes. So as far as I’m concerned, I’m doing my job.


During the first three years, the rate of growth is more rapid than any other time in life. To support all this growth, kids need lots of nutrient-rich calories. The demand for vitamins and minerals is incredibly high, and some of these are easier to come by in the typical diet than others.

Dietary supplements may be an option for some children, but in general, food should always come first. Work with your pediatrician and a registered dietitian to determine your child’s specific needs. Either way, make sure there are more of these five nutrients in their diet.



Calcium is responsible for the proper growth and development of teeth and bones as well as muscle contraction and nerve conductivity.


Children ages newborn to three require between 200 and 700 milligrams of calcium per day.


Calcium can be found in dairy products like milk (300 milligrams in one cup), cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. It is also added to some brands of orange juice, tofu, and breakfast cereals. Other sources include almonds, broccoli, and leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale.

Deficiency in Children

In severe cases calcium deficiency can cause weakened teeth and bones. Poor intake of calcium during childhood can affect bone health later in life, and when kids grow older they may be at greater risk for bone fractures and osteoporosis.



The body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium and mineralize bone. Vitamin D is also important for immunity and healthy muscles.


Vitamin D is measured in international units (IU). Children ages newborn to three require 400 to 600 IU per day.


Vitamin D is found in a relatively small number of foods, which may make it difficult for some kids to get enough. Mothers who exclusively breastfeed are encouraged to give babies vitamin D supplement drops during the first six to twelve months. From food it can be found in fatty fish (like salmon and tuna), egg yolks, and fortified foods like milk, orange juice, some cuts of pork, and some brands of yogurt. There are 40 IU in a glass of milk and about 20 IU in one egg yolk.

Humans are able to make some of their own vitamin D with the skin’s exposure to sunlight, but production varies on where you live and the time of year. Since there are plenty of other good reasons to keep the kids out of the sun (and slather on the sunblock), focusing on food should be a priority.

Deficiency in Children

In children, a lack of vitamin D can cause rickets, a rare but serious condition where the bones become weak and pliable. Children who suffer from rickets often have impaired growth, malformed teeth, and bowed legs.



Omega-3 fatty acids are forms of healthy, polyunsaturated fats. They play an important role in circulation and neurological function. One form in particular, referred to as DHA, is beneficial for pregnant women, infants, and children, contributing to healthy skin, vision, neurological development, and cognitive function.


There are no established government recommendations for omega-3 intake for babies and children, but pediatricians recommend somewhere between 400 and 700 milligrams a day for infants and children ages newborn to three years.


In addition to prenatal vitamins, moms are encouraged to take omega-3 supplements from fish oil during pregnancy and for breastfeeding. As infants grow there are additional options to take in this important nutrient. Some brands of milk and many brands of infant formula have DHA added.

Fatty fish like salmon and tuna are wonderful sources of omega-3, but since these aren’t the most popular food choices for many children, flaxseeds, walnuts (barring a nut allergy), egg yolks, and fortified foods like cereals, milk and yogurt, and some varieties of jarred baby foods also have DHA added.

Deficiency in Children

Kids who don’t get enough omega-3 may be at a greater risk for learning deficits and possibly behavioral issues.

• IRON •


Iron is one of the most important minerals for children and adults. It allows red blood cells to deliver oxygen to tissues and helps form enzymes that allow for all kinds of necessary body processes.


Requirements for iron shift with periods of growth. Children require 11 milligrams a day up to age twelve months, and then between ages one and three requirements decrease to 7 milligrams per day.


Iron can be found in plant-based foods like beans, raisins, lentils, spinach, tofu, and whole grain cereals as well as animal foods like red meat, poultry, tuna, and pork. Ideally it is best to eat a combination of both plant and animal sources of iron to maximize absorption.

Deficiency in Children

Not getting enough iron can lead to iron-deficiency anemia. Symptoms include headache, pale skin, fatigue, decreased appetite, shortness of breath, and decreased immunity. Deficiencies may also be accelerated by an excessive amount of calcium intake; kids who overconsume milk may be at greater risk.



Probiotics are healthy bacteria that keep the digestive system working properly. Getting enough can be very helpful for children with food intolerances or who are prone to other gastrointestinal conditions like diarrhea and reflux.


Like omega-3 fats, there are no established guidelines for probiotic intake. What is most important with probiotics is that intake is consistent and a regular fixture in the diet. Occasional consumption is not going to have the desired effects.


Children’s probiotic supplements exist, but in many cases, natural food sources should be parents’ first choice. You will find these healthy bacteria in yogurt and kefir (a cultured milk product) as well as sourdough bread and fermented foods like miso. There are also some naturally existing probiotics in breast milk, and infant formulas are often fortified.

Deficiency in Children

Bouts of diarrhea, illnesses, or taking antibiotics tend to wipe out much of the healthy bacteria along the digestive tract, making children deficient in what they need for normal digestion. Taking probiotics can help repopulate the digestive tract with what it needs to stay healthy.


The First Six Months: Life Before Solids

There are no meal plans for the first four to six months of a baby’s life. This is the time for an all-liquid diet. Nutrition comes from breast milk or formula, because an infant’s digestive tract is too immature to handle much else. But things get more exciting when they are in the four- to six-month-old range.

Introducing Solid Foods

Babies cannot say, “Hey, Mom, give me some of that!” When they are ready to try solids there are several cues parents can look out for. Look for these signs somewhere around four to six months:

   • Increase in appetite
   • Ability to sit up with minimal assistance (can sit in a high chair)
   • Head control—can hold head up independently
   • Interest in food—looking, smelling, reaching

How to Introduce New Foods

New foods should be introduced independently. It is the easiest way to know if your child has an adverse reaction to a particular food. When introducing a new food, give it four to seven days to rule out any adverse reactions before moving on to something else or mixing with another food. Once you start to incorporate mixed foods, like a combo of meats with vegetables, be sure only one new food (if any) is part of the mixture.

Rash, vomiting, skin changes, hives, diarrhea, even increased fussing and spitting up may be indications that the food is not being comfortably digested.

Don’t be deterred by a snarling face or unpleasantly puckered puss; a lot of time this is just a normal reaction to a foreign texture or flavor.

It has been well documented that it may take up to ten or more exposures to a new food before a child can truly determine if they like it or not. Parents often make the mistake of striking foods off the list of options, assuming their child does not like it, when they really just needed more of a chance to get used to it.

Age-Appropriate Foods from 6 Months to 3 Years

Rice and Other Grains

Dehydrated rice cereal is often the first solid food an infant will try. Rice-based foods are typically offered early on because they have a mild flavor, a soft texture, and a low risk of allergic reaction. Once rice is tolerated comfortably, move on to other grains like oatmeal and barley. Dry Cheerios (plain), breads, and pastas can start to be introduced around the seven- or eight-month mark. As children approach one year of age, they can tolerate more complex dishes such as grains pureed with fruits, vegetables, dairy, or protein.

Fruits and Vegetables

Some experts recommend starting with veggies instead of fruit out of concern that the sweetness of fruit may outshine the appeal of vegetables, but I always started with applesauce. Basic fruit and vegetable purees, thinned out to the proper consistency, are easy to make and loaded with nutrition. Switching back and forth between fruits and vegetables is a nice way to offer purees and diversify flavor offerings. After a few months, your little one will develop an impressive repertoire of produce to enjoy. Here is a suggested order for introduction:

Table of Contents

Introduction vii

1 What Growing Bodies Need 1

2 The Superfood Index and Must-Have Kitchen Tools 23

3 Fruit and Vegetable Recipes 57

4 Grain Recipes 97

5 Protein Recipes 127

6 Dairy and Egg Recipes 149

7 Ten Healthy Kid-Friendly Menus 165

Acknowledgments 169

Index 171

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“White’s focus on the known 50 ­superfoods will get everyone off to a great start. Bon Appetit!”
—Library Journal

Customer Reviews