Solid Food Preparation and Handling

At different stages of development, infants and young children can begin receiving foods other than breast milk or infant formula. It is important that as new foods are introduced, they are prepared in a way that limits the risk of food-borne illness and optimizes the nutritional content of the food.

Preparing Infant Cereal

Between 4 to 6 months of age, infants can begin receiving single-grain cereal. Most infants start with iron-fortified rice cereal.

To prepare infant cereal for the infant’s first feeding

  • Mix 15 milliliters (1 Tablespoon) of cereal with 60-75 milliliters (4-5 Tablespoons) of breast milk or prepared infant formula

In the initial introductions of cereal, the consistency will be very runny. DO NOT SERVE MIXED CEREAL IN A BOTTLE.

To prepare infant cereal for subsequent feedings

  • Place desired amount of cereal in a bowl
  • Stir in liquid (breast milk or formula) until the cereal reaches the desired consistency
  • Serve immediately or warm
  • To warm, place mixed cereal in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 15-30 seconds
  • Test temperature before feeding to avoid burns
  • Spoon-feed cereal to infant
  • Discard any unused cereal

To prepare cereal for young children

  • Place desired amount of cereal in a bowl
  • Stir in liquid (clean water, juice or whole cow’s milk) until the cereal reaches the desired consistency
  • Serve immediately or warm
  • To warm, place mixed cereal in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 15-30 seconds
  • Test temperature before feeding to avoid burns
  • Spoon-feed cereal to child
  • Discard any unused cereal

Preparing Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of a well-balanced diet. However, it is important to ensure they are safe to eat because fresh fruits and vegetables can carry bacteria and pesticides on their surfaces.

Produce Preparation

After introducing cereal, fruits and vegetables can gradually be introduced an infant’s diet.

To prepare fruits and vegetables for infants:

  • Wash hands with soap and water
  • Wash and sterilize food preparation dishes and utensils
  • Wash produce
  • Peel, seed and chop selected produce into small pieces
  • Cook produce until tender by steaming or boiling*; do not add salt or sugar
  • Strain water from produce
  • Allow to cool; test temperature before feeding
  • Blend with a hand blender or food processor until consistency is a smooth puree
  • Measure amount of pureed food needed into a bowl
  • Mix with prepared formula, breast milk or clean water to reach the desired consistency
  • Uneaten food from the bowl should be discarded
  • Store remaining puree by refrigerating up to 24 hours or freezing up to 3 months
  • Thaw frozen puree overnight in a refrigerator
  • Reheat thawed puree gradually until hot throughout; cool slightly before feeding

*State operated institutions may have specific regulations and protocols for cooking produce

As children develop, they can begin eating firmer textures of fruits and vegetables. When children have enough teeth for chewing, they can begin eating fresh, raw fruits and vegetables.

Produce Handling

Tips for safe handling of fresh produce:

  • Wash hands before and after handling fresh produce
  • Wash and sanitize food preparation surfaces, cutting boards and utensils before and after preparing fresh produce
  • Do not wash fresh produce before storing; wash produce only when ready to use
  • To wash produce:
    • Rinse fruits and vegetables under clean, running water; do not use soap or detergent to wash produce
    • Use a brush to scrub dirt from the grooves of produce such as
      • Potatoes
      • Melons
      • Citrus fruits
      • Cucumbers
      • Winter squash
    • Rinse the surface of commonly peeled produce, such as bananas or oranges
    • Remove the outer layers of leafy vegetables before rinsing
    • Dry produce thoroughly
  • Cut away portions of produce that are bruised or damaged
  • Refrigerate fruits and vegetables within 2 hours of cutting and peeling
  • Discard peeled and cut produce that has been at room temperature for over 2 hours
  • Store produce in a cool, dry place
  • Check stored produce often; throw away produce that shows signs of mold or spoilage

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