By Nichola Ludlam-Raine, Registered Dietitian & Beaba’s Weaning and Nutrition Expert
Some of the most important aspects of weaning and feeding your baby are to keep it relaxed, fun and varied. Eating seasonally can help with this as it means the produce that you buy and eat over the year changes, which keeps your diet interesting!
What does eating seasonally mean?
Eating seasonally involves including foods in your diet that are grown locally, during the same month in which you eat them. Eating fruits and vegetables that are in season not only taste better and have more nutrients, but they may help to save you money too as more local produce tends to be cheaper than produce that has been shipped half way across the world. Foods with fewer air and road miles also supports the environment and planet too thanks to fewer carbon emissions.
There are also benefits when weaning your baby! Making the most of seasonal foods can support increased exposure to a wide range of tastes, textures and variety during this key phase of development. This has the potential to support a child’s acceptance of a balanced and varied diet as they get older.
What fruits and vegetables are in season when in the UK?
Use the following list as a guide the next time you go shopping or simply visit your local food market. If you go to a supermarket check the label before you buy and choose the fruits and vegetables that have been grown in the UK rather than other countries.
January – March
Apples, Beetroot, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Celeriac, Celery, Chicory, Cucumber, Jerusalem Artichokes, Kale, Leeks, Mushrooms, Onions, Parsnips, Pears, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Radishes, Rhubarb, Sorrel, Spring Greens, Spring Onions, Squash, Swedes, Turnips, Watercress.
April – June
Artichoke, Asparagus, Aubergine, Beetroot, Blackcurrants, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cherries, Cabbage, Carrots, Chicory, Courgettes, Chillies, Cucumber, Gooseberries, New Potatoes, Kale, Lettuce, Marrow, Morel Mushrooms, Parsnips, Peas, Peppers, Radishes, Raspberries, Redcurrants, Rhubarb, Rocket, Sorrel, Spinach, Spring Greens, Spring Onions, Strawberries, Summer Squash, Swiss Chard, Tayberries, Turnips, Watercress.
July – September
Aubergine, Beetroot, Blackberries, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Blackcurrants, Blueberries, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Butternut Squash, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cherries, Chicory, Chillies, Courgettes, Cucumber, Gooseberries, Greengages, Fennel, French Beans, Garlic, Kohlrabi, Loganberries, Leeks, Lettuce, Mangetout, Marrow, Mushrooms, New Potatoes, Onions, Parsnips, Peas, Peppers, Potatoes, Plums, Pumpkin, Radishes, Raspberries, Redcurrants, Rhubarb, Rocket, Runner Beans, Samphire, Sorrel, Spring Greens, Spring Onions, Strawberries, Summer Squash, Swish Chard, Tomatoes, Turnips, Watercress.
October – December
Aubergine, Apples, Beetroot, Blackberries, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celeriac, Celery, Chestnuts, Chicory, Chillies, Courgette, Cucumber, Elderberries, Kale, Leeks, Lettuce, Marrow, Onions, Parsnips, Pears, Peas, Potatoes, Pumpkin, Radishes, Rocket, Runner Beans, Spinach, Spring Greens, Spring Onions, Summer Squash, Swede, Sweetcorn, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes, Turnips, Watercress, Wild Mushrooms, Winter Squash.
What’s the best way to feed a baby in season fruits & vegetables?
Whether you’re following traditional weaning methods such as spoon-feeding with purees, or choosing baby led weaning (or a combination of both!) it’s easy to adapt each method to offer fruit and vegetables in season. Encouraging finger foods helps your baby develop their pincer grip, hand-eye coordination and chewing skills – whilst increasing their familiarity with the fruits and vegetables being given to them.
Steaming fruits and vegetables using a baby food steamer blender, such as the Babycook, from Beaba helps to soften them, making them easier to eat and digest, whilst preserving valuable nutrients and making them more bio-available too. You may also want to remove the skin from certain fruits and vegetables, at least initially, to help your baby to digest them more easily.
Organic vs. Non-Organic Foods
Organic farming involves severely restricting the use of artificial chemical fertilisers and pesticides, relying instead on developing a healthy, fertile soil and growing a mixture of crops.
In the UK, the Pesticide Action Network have produced two lists, known as the ‘dirty dozen’ and the ‘clean fifteen’, declaring the worst and best foods for multiple pesticide residues respectively. In the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list are; grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes, strawberries, pears, grapes, cherries, peaches, parsnips, asparagus, apples and apricots. Washing (and peeling where possible) these fruits and vegetables is therefore highly recommended, especially if the organic equivalents aren’t bought.
Listed in the Clean Fifteen (i.e. lowest prevalence of pesticide residues) are: beetroot, mushrooms, corn on the cob, figs, rhubarb, swede, turnip, onions, avocado, cauliflower, radish, sweet potatoes, broad beans, leeks, pumpkin and squash; meaning if you were buying organic food selectively, then you could stick to the regular versions of these foods.
Should we take these lists on our next shop though? Perhaps not. There is currently limited evidence to indicate that organic foods contain lower levels of pesticides than food produced by conventional methods. There also isn’t enough scientific evidence to say that organic food is more nutritious than its non-organic counterpart or that there are any additional health benefits to eating organic foods.
Whilst some foods grown organically may have more nutrients, some may have the same, or even less, than those grown on non-organic farms. Many factors can affect the nutritional content of food (organic and non-organic) such as: soil quality, growing conditions, as well as harvesting methods and timing.
Providing your baby with a variety of different fruits and vegetables during weaning (and beyond!) is essential for their growth, development and health. Try to buy different coloured seasonal produce to guarantee a mixture of different vitamins and minerals and cook them gently to ensure their nutrients are preserved (steaming is ideal!). Offer fingers foods alongside purees and make sure to wash your fruits and vegetables, especially if they aren’t organic.