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How many times a day should my baby have fruits & vegetables?
Michelle, thanks for your question about starting to feed your baby cereal, fruits and vegetables. Most babies are ready to start eating solid foods between 4 and 6 months of age. The first solid food is usually iron-fortified baby cereal because it is nutritious and gives your baby good practice eating from a spoon. It's good to start with rice cereal, then oatmeal and barley cereals; and try wheat and mixed cereals later since they can cause allergies.

When you start baby cereal, you might try it once a day at first, then progress to twice a day, and finally three times a day. Three meals a day will help provide your baby the added nutrition he needs to grow. And getting your baby on the family's meal schedule helps him learn to enjoy the social aspect of eating together.

Once your baby eats cereal well from the spoon, you can start feeding him fruits and vegetables. Give your baby his fruits and vegetables at the same three meals with his cereal. This starts providing him a nutritional balance (i.e., cereals for energy and iron; fruits and vegetables for fiber and vitamins) and helps him get used to different colors, tastes and textures of food at each meal.

Many nutrition experts recommend starting with the orange vegetables (e.g., sweet potatoes, squash, carrots), then the other vegetables (e.g., peas, beans, beets) and pureed fruits (e.g., bananas, apples, pears, peaches, plums). You can buy jarred baby food or make your own baby food by cooking it until it's soft and then mashing it with a fork or grinding it in a food mill or electric blender. One caution: don't make your baby homemade beets, turnips, carrots, collard greens, or spinach because they may contain high levels of nitrates from soil which can cause anemia (low blood count) in babies. Baby food companies screen the produce they buy for these nitrates.

Enjoy the new experience and be prepared for messier mealtimes!

Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician