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Tips for Mixing Fruits and Vegetables in a Baby's Rice Cereal

Starting solid foods is a major milestone for your baby that typically occurs around the age of 6 months. Once she has acclimated to eating rice cereal, it's time to introduce fruits and vegetables. The order in which you introduce foods has no known advantages, states the American Academy of Pediatrics, so no need to worry about where to begin. Still, some basic safety, preparation and nutrition tips can ease your baby's transition to solids when it is time to begin expanding her horizons beyond plain rice cereal.

RELATED: 10 Foods that Make Great Purees

One at a Time

When adding fruits and vegetables to your little one's diet, the Colorado State University Extension recommends introducing one new food at a time without mixing it into another food, such as cereal. This will help you identify any food allergies or sensitivities. Once you establish that a particular fruit or vegetable has no ill effects on your baby, and he is acclimated to the new flavor, you can start mixing 1 to 2 tablespoons into his rice cereal. Over the next few months, slowly increase his daily intake up to about 1 cup per day.

Puree Fruits and Vegetables

Soft fruits and vegetables that you can easily puree and strain make the easiest, safest choices for solids. Applesauce, peaches, bananas, apricots, pears, avocado and berries are appropriate for mixing into rice cereal. First vegetable choices include sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, potatoes, zucchini, peas, cauliflower, carrots, lentils and legumes. Puree all fruits and vegetables to a fine texture and smooth consistency and strain to remove seeds, pulp and other chunks to prevent choking. Around 9 months of age, your baby will be able to handle coarser chunks in her rice cereal. KidsHealth warns against offering citrus fruits due to the acidity; fresh beets, collard greens, spinach and turnips should be avoided, as well, due to high nitrate content that may cause anemia. If you wish to mix these vegetables into your baby's rice cereal, use only the jarred variety, which are basically devoid of nitrates.

Wash and Peel

Basic sanitation is good practice with anything you put in your baby's mouth, so carefully wash all fruits and vegetables before preparing them to mix into her rice cereal. Botulism is a particular concern with fruits and vegetable that may contact the ground while growing, so take extra care to wash away any harmful spores and particles, advises Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters. Peels may be difficult to puree and leave chunks that present a choking hazard. Therefore, remove all peels before preparing the puree to mix into the rice cereal.

Lay Off Salt and Sugar

The earlier you introduce good nutrition, the healthier eating habits you will be teaching your little angel. Adding salt or sugar to your baby's fruits and vegetables is unnecessary and unhealthy, says CSU Extension. Your baby does not need the excess calories or tooth decay from excessive sugar consumption, even as his teeth are still developing. Added salt can put a strain on your infant's kidneys. Stick to freshly prepared, unseasoned and unsweetened fruits and vegetables, or use the jarred commercial baby food preparations to ensure you are adding maximum nutritional value to your child's rice cereal.

RELATED: Baby Food 101: Fruits v. Vegetables

Image via E. Dygas/Photodisc/Getty Images

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