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Foods to Avoid the First Year

At around 6 months, your baby will probably be ready to take her first few bites of table food. You can slowly introduce fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and most of the other foods you eat yourself, says William Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the following should be off-limits during the first year:

Chocolate: This sweet may trigger an allergic reaction, particularly among infants at high risk for developing allergies (they tend to run in families).

Nuts: They're a choking hazard for children under 4. Some babies are also allergic to them, so steer clear of peanuts, peanut butter, and other nuts, especially if allergies run in your family.

Egg whites: The protein in egg whites can cause an allergic reaction in some babies. Egg yolks are okay as long as they're cooked first.

Honey: It may harbor potentially deadly spores and cause infant botulism. Symptoms include constipation, weakness, poor muscle tone, and difficulty swallowing.

Cow's milk: It contains a protein called casein that can irritate a baby's digestive tract (if she's allergic) or cause microscopic amounts of blood loss in the bowel (creating the risk of iron-deficiency anemia). If your baby can't nurse or tolerate formula, try a hypoallergenic formula, in which milk proteins have been broken down. Other dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese, are generally safe for infants but should be avoided if there's a family history of milk allergies.

Citrus fruits and juices: Orange, lemon, and grapefruit products may cause your baby to vomit. If you find she's sensitive to citrus, don't offer the fruit or juice again for at least several weeks. Also avoid giving excessive amounts of undiluted apple or pear juice; they can trigger diarrhea. White grape juice is easier on a baby's tummy.

Processed foods: Canned pastas, soups, and vegetables are high in sodium, which may be hard for a 6- to 8-month-old's kidneys to filter.

High-nitrate vegetables: Don't feed your baby home-cooked beets, carrots, green beans, spinach, or collard greens before she's 8 months old. Commercial baby foods made with these veggies are less worrisome, since the manufacturers buy their produce from areas where nitrate levels are low.

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