When I started working with babies, we had a list of top food allergens to avoid posted on the wall of the infant classroom. In the past decade, however, the advice has completely reversed, and research now suggests that babies should be introduced to commonly allergenic foods as soon as possible to help protect against food allergies. Baby Led Weaning (BLW), or giving babies finger food instead of purees, has also become very popular in the last few years, so here are some tips on how to introduce the top 8 food allergens to babies no matter how they're fed.
Purees: plain Greek yogurt is high in protein and a baby favorite on its own or mixed with fruit purees.
BLW: cubes of cheese like mozzarella or cheddar are a healthy snack - but if giving string cheese be sure to cut it lengthwise to avoid a choking hazard.
Purees: soft scrambled eggs can be mashed and mixed with veggie purees.
BLW: eggs can be hardboiled, scrambled, or made into omelettes (a great way to add in veggies to a meal!)
Purees: stir a spoonful of peanut butter into oatmeal or mix with mashed banana.
BLW: Bamba are a puff-like Israeli peanut butter snack that have single-handedly reduced the rate of peanut allergies in Israel because they’re so popular with children. They’re now available in the US at Trader Joe’s or online.
Purees: almond butter can be used like peanut butter as an add-in to purees or oatmeal.
BLW: ground almond meal can be used in baking in place of flour.
Purees: use soy milk to make cereal, or mix silken tofu into pureed veggies.
BLW: edamame make a healthy, soy-based snack, and many BLW kids are surprisingly willing to eat cubes of tofu!
Purees: teething biscuits made with wheat flour can be introduced while baby is still on purees.
BLW: this is an easy one - any type of wheat cracker, bread, pancake, muffin, etc will do!
Fish and shellfish
Purees: flaked fish can be mixed with vegetable purees, or use fish stock if you have it on hand.
BLW: babies can be given fish as table food, just watch out for bones, which are a choking hazard.