What Starter Foods Look Like In 20 Different Countries

Is there anything that causes more disagreement in the world of parenting as baby food. There are so many areas that people can disagree with. Some start solid foods at 4-months, while others wait until 6-months. Some buy pureed food for their babies and some make their own. Some even skip puree all together and go right to baby led weaning.

No matter what a mom does, she will be judged for it. Here in Canada and the United States, baby starter food is pretty simple. Mom will normally start their baby on rice or oat cereal, or pablum as it used to be called. They will then move on to vegetables and fruits. Moms are advised to only introduce one thing at a time to watch for an allergic reaction to it.

Moms can get stuck thinking the way they do it must be the way it is done all over the world. They can’t possibly imagine that there are other ways of doing it, and other types of food to offer. Well, the world is a big place and babies are being born all over the world every minute. We thought it would be interesting to take a trip around the world and discover what moms in other countries feed their babies when they are ready for that first, starter food.

20 Kenya – Sweet Potatoes

It is important to remember before we go on our journey that these are starter foods. So, these are the very first things the babies are given to eat. What seems odd to us, is completely normal in other countries and cultures. In Kenya, the baby is normally given sweet potatoes as their very first food.

In Kenya, sweet potatoes are known as ngwaci and they are offered to babies who are 6-months old. The reason it is given first is because of its rich and sweet flavour and the pleasant texture. It is also very rich in vitamin A, which all babies need to grow.

19 India – Khichdi

India is a land full of bold flavours, so it is safe to say that their baby food is the same way. When babies hit their 6-month birthday, they are offered their first taste of food and that is in the form of Khichdi. Khichdi is a traditional Indian vegetarian dish.

This dish includes lentils and an array of vegetables. What makes this dish stand apart from the rest is that they do add a lot of spice and flavour to it. The baby will grow up eating foods with a lot of different spices in it, so it is best to expose them to it early.

18 Japan – Okayu

The Asian cultures tend to look the most different and intimidating to ours, but they are also some of the most interesting. Babies in Japan are initially fed a lot of Miso soup before they reach their first birthday. Parents will start to wean their child off of breastmilk once they have reached the 100th day past their date of birth.

They will do this by offering them a traditional feast called Okayu. Okayu is a dish that is mostly rice porridge based. It is topped with dried fish and vegetables or pumpkin. We can definitely see how big the difference already is on what people feed their babies.

17 France – Leek Soup

France has to do everything in a fancier way than the rest of the world. It is why we love the romantic and elegant country. Their food is no different than the rest of their culture. While we all strive for healthy options for our children, the French take it very seriously. They have a very health-conscious menu for their little ones.

Some of their starter foods include leek soup, endive, spinach and beets. By the time a baby in France reaches their first birthday, they are already eating a lot of gourmet food. They are used to eating soft cheeses, quinoa and couscous.

16 Mexico – Rice And Beans

Babies in Mexico get a great first start in the food department as they are typically offered rice and beans as their first food. Soup is another popular first-food choice in Mexico and a lot of South America. If anyone knows anything about spicy food, then they know that Mexico really knows how to heat things up.

It is not uncommon for parents to sprinkle a little chili powder and lime onto apples, oranges and pears in order to entice their little one to eat more fruit. In the western world, we are often told to stay away from spicy foods as to not upset a baby’s tummy. If they like it and don’t react negatively, there is nothing wrong with adding a bit of spice to food.

15 Vietnam – Shrimp

Vietnam is another exotic location that has their own flair and style when it comes to feeding their babies. The most common first-food for infants is soups. It would make sense that a lot of countries start their babies off with soup because it is a liquid based diet. They would assume that it is easy to digest.

The soups that Vietnam would serve would be very high in fiber to provide for a growing baby. They would add this fibre by adding items such as shrimp, potatoes and vegetables. The soups are also flavoured by using fish sauce and dried meat bones.

14 Sweden – Valling

Sweden is our first Nordic country on our list, so it will be interesting to see what they feed their baby for the very first time. In Sweden, infants are often given a meal called Valling. Valling is wheat-based cereal that is very similar to a normal oatmeal. The main difference is this meal is made with palm oil, canola and powdered milk.

The people of Sweden may not do things as differently as we do, they will also give their babies mashed-up fruits and vegetables as part of their starter pack. If I may speak for myself, this meal appears to sound the most appetizing, but the baby likes what the baby likes.

13 Jamaica – Tropical Fruits

Jamaica is a beautiful country in the Caribbean, and they are known for their hot sun, nice beaches and great food. If you are thinking that common sense tells us that the babies in Jamaica must eat tropical fruits, then your common sense is right. By the time a baby is 4-months old in Jamaica, they are already getting a sweet taste.

Before the baby gets their first serving of milk, they are offered a variety of the local tropical fruit. They are given custard apple, papaya, mango, banana and naseberry. The biggest difference between the US and Jamaica, is that they may add honey for flavour to this fruit blend. We have always been told honey is not good for infants under the age of one.

12 China – Rice

This one is going to sound like a really bad stereotype, but it is not. The first food that is commonly given to babies in China is rice. It is a staple in their diet, so it makes sense they would want to expose their children to it as early as possible. By the time the babies are 4-months old, the babies have traditionally moved on past breastmilk and onto rice dishes.

These rice dishes are normally paired with fish, carrots, seaweed and eggs. They will also eat porridges that are made with bananas, milk and green beans. There is a lot of variety for babies in China and they couldn’t be happier.

11 Tibet – Zamba

Tibet is a country that we don’t know a lot about. It is a land of mystery and unknown. Well, after today you will know at least what their babies eat. What is most surprising is that the baby’s first experience with food comes when they are just 4-days old. That was not a typo, the babies are just days old when they are given what the Tibetans call Zamba.

The catch is, they are not given this to eat. Zamba is barley, corn, wheat and peas stirred, fried and ground into flour and mixed with Yak butter. It is placed on the newborn’s forehead to symbolize purity.

10 Peru – Granadilla

Peru is part of South America, and what they give their babies to eat is not much different than the rest of the continent. Granadilla may be a mouthful to say, but it goes down pretty smooth for the young babies. Granadilla is a type of sweet passion fruit. They are not given the whole fruit to chow down on.

They will be offered the pulp of the fruit with the seeds removed to prevent choking. This fruit is full of good minerals and is an excellent source of fibre. Iron and calcium are found in droves in this delicious fruit.

9 Hawaii – Poi

Not all of the United States is created equal, and in Hawaii they do things a little differently than on the mainland. Poi is the normal first-food for infants on this tropical and beautiful island. Poi is the fermented paste of the taro root plant.

This is considered one of their most ancient foods and it is loved for its many endearing qualities. This food is very easy to digest, which is a good thing for little tummies which are just getting used to eating solid food. It is also naturally gluten-free, which is all the rage today. Poi is also hypoallergenic, which means it is pretty impossible for anyone to be allergic to it. Sounds like the perfect starter food.

8 Philippines – Lugaw

If you notice a trend here, you are correct. While the types of foods may be different in each country, most of them do start their babies on some form of porridge or pureed foods. The Philippines is no different. They start their babies on a food called Lugaw.

Lugaw is a rice porridge which is often cooked with chicken broth, garlic and ginger. Due to these ingredients it is obviously very easy on the stomach. Adults will also indulge in this food if they are ever feeling under the weather. Their starter food is loved by babies and adults alike, it is universal.

7 Italy – Purees With A Twist

Babies in Italian are not given pasta as a first food, sorry to disappoint anyone who thought they may be. Actually, babies in Italy are not treated very differently than babies here. They are started on a similar puree system as our babies, which is pureed vegetables and fruit. However, the Italians do things a little differently, including their baby food.

They make their purees with olive oil and parmesan cheese, which immediately makes them more appealing to me. When the baby hits 6-months, they will start to add chicken and other meats to the purees. Everything tastes better in Italy, including the baby food.

6 Cameroon – Pap

Cameroon is another place that seems very foreign to a lot of people, and their baby food will seem just as foreign. In Cameroon, babies are given a substance called Pap as their first food, and it is not much different than the rice cereal we know and love.

Pap is a cereal-like fermented cornmeal recipe that the babies just absolutely love. It resembles a corn mush. While this may sound unappealing to us, this is all the baby knows, so it is likely that they will love it or any food you give them. Chances are, if a lot of these foods were presented to adults differently they would also be eaten and loved.

5 Israel – Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is a controversial food item. Many used to avoid it out of fear of allergies in their children. They are now telling parents to introduce it early in hopes of preventing an allergy due to exposure. They don’t have this problem in Israel.

Bamba is the traditional first-meal given to infants in Israel and it is a mixture of peanut butter and corn. Statistically, they may be on to something in Israel. There are ten times more instances of peanut butter allergies in the US than there are in Israel. Showing that early exposure may be beneficial after all.

4 Nigeria – Gbegiri

Nigeria is an African country that is full of culture and spice. Their language may be difficult, hence the name of their first starter food for babies. I am unsure of how to pronounce Gbegiri, but there is no denying that babies in Nigeria love this starter food.

Gbegiri is a thick bean soup. They will usually season it wish tomatoes, onions, tiny cuts of fish and they may even throw a little chili powder into it. When we hear about the foods in all of these other countries, it sure makes our food sound really bland and boring. It looks like we have a few things to learn from countries around the world.

3 New Zealand – Poi Poi

Hawaii is not the only place that knows the value of the taro root plant, as New Zealand uses it as well. Poi Poi is a food that is commonly given to infants as their very first starter food. It is a very creamy pudding that is made from taro root, coconut cream and bread fruit.

It is frequently used in New Zealand as well as some Polynesian countries and it actually sounds quite delicious. It is common that a baby’s first food is something sweet as it is more encouraging when it comes to getting them to eat solid foods. Some countries do sweet and some do savoury, which do you prefer?

2 Egypt – Hummus

Egypt has such a strong and rich history, but they are not always known for their food. Egypt, along with a lot of other middle eastern countries, give baby hummus as their first food. We know hummus as that delicious dip that you normally serve at parties and get togethers. We don’t normally associate it with a first food for baby.

Hummus is made with chick peas, tahini, olive oil, salt, pepper and a little garlic and it is a pleasing experience to the taste buds. It makes sense that this would be a baby’s first food, it is that yummy. They may not want to eat anything else.

1 USA – Rice Cereal

We don’t want to assume everyone reading this article is from Canada or the United States, so we need to add a section on what we do over here just to make sure we are covering all of our bases. Babies are normally introduced to solid foods anywhere from 4 to 6 months and it is normally rice or oat cereal.

Parents are then told to slowly introduce fruits and vegetables. They are told to only introduce on every 3 or 4 days. This is to watch for a reaction. If you only introduce one at a time it is much easier to see which one your baby had a reaction too. After reading this article, I am starting to think we are doing this food thing all wrong.

References: The Daily Meal, Mother and Baby, Brit co., The Stir Cafe 

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