If your baby’s been eating puréed baby foods for a while, there’s a good chance she’s ready to move on to something more interesting. Is there a right time to introduce dairy, meats and other solid foods?

Super-soft fruits and veggies get the job done when you're introducing new foods to your little one. But eventually those mushy textures are going to get boring. How do you know when your baby is ready for more substantial solid foods?

More than milk and formula

"The only difference between what adults eat and prepackaged baby food is the consistency and the fat/salt/sugar/preservative content," says Susan Davis-Brown, M.D., board-certified in pediatrics. She adds that meats can be started around 9 months, as well as table food. Just make sure your baby can handle the consistency.

Stick with small pieces and small portions as your child baby steps her way to becoming a foodie. If she looks interested in what you're eating, let her sample it. Good choices are homemade soups with well-cooked meats and veggies, dry cereals, pastas and toast.

A foray into finger foods

Is your baby grabbing for the spoon or refusing to open up when you're trying to force in those puréed peas and mashed-up bananas? Let her have some mealtime independence and introduce her to finger foods.

Jean-Jacques Dugoua, M.D. (Dr. JJ), a naturopathic doctor, recommends organic squash, bananas and lentils as great sources of vitamins and other nutrients. Plus, these healthy finger foods offer natural sweetness and pleasant textures.

Other great steamed veggies for your burgeoning self-feeder are carrots, asparagus tips, cauliflower and broccoli. "Most fresh fruits can be cut into small, soft pieces," says Davis-Brown, who also recommends apple slices once the child masters chewing.

Introducing complex textures and flavors

For parents with a carnivore in the house, crock pot cooking can be a lifesaver. It'll turn meats into moist, easy-to-shred portions. Davis-Brown advises avoiding hot dogs, chicken nuggets, hamburger and high-salt, canned foods.

If you doubt your own culinary prowess, don't. Your child isn't Anthony Bourdain -- at least, not yet. Since a baby's taste buds are developing, you don't have to be concerned with much of a menu beyond steamed veggies and baked meat or poultry, says Dr. JJ. Though you can use this time to incorporate mild spices, just avoid the hot ones like cayenne and spicy peppers.

And when you need prepackaged food, go natural -- Plum Organics’ baby foods support the introduction of unique and complex ingredients for the development of your child's palate.

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Topics: 4-6 months 7-9 months

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