Let's serve berries this summer! From berry benefits to what you need to know to serve berries confidently to your little one, we've got you covered.
Summer’s here and that means berry season — and there’s every reason to indulge in berries this year! Not only are berries delicious — whether on their own or mixed into various summer recipes — but they are also one of the healthiest foods you can serve your little one. So stock up your fridge and freezer with all the blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries you can!
In the meantime, here’s what to know about the health benefits of berries and how to serve them to babies and toddlers:
Health Benefits of Berries
I generally roll my eyes when I see media pieces hailing this or that on-trend ingredient as a “superfood” 🙄, but if there was anything that could come remotely close to such a distinction, it would be berries. Indeed, berries are a true nutritional powerhouse in every sense — nutritionists and researchers alike agree: berries are in the running as one of the healthiest foods on the planet.
Here’s some of what you get from every bite:
- Antioxidants — Berries are loaded with antioxidants, which help keep free radicals in check and thus help defend against cell damage.
- Vitamins & Minerals — Berries are packed with vitamins and minerals; they’re especially rich in vitamin C (contrary to popular belief, citrus does not have the market cornered on this one!), vitamin K, magnesium, potassium, and prebiotics. Fun!
- Fiber — Berries are a fantastic source of fiber, which is so important for general physical health and for digestion and the gut microbiome, too! (BTW, if your babe appears to be struggling with constipation, here are some classic signs and remedies you can rely on.)
Not only this^^, eating berries is also associated with a reduced risk for disease (especially heart disease and type 2 diabetes) and reduced cancer markers. Berries are anti-inflammatory, and partly because they actually have quite a low sugar content for the fruit category, they can help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Lastly, berries may be beneficial for brain development, as they’ve been shown to delay cognitive aging in older men and women (there aren’t studies on this in young children, but the cognitive benefits of eating berries among adults is well accepted…).
“On average, people who eat more berries seem to live a little bit longer,” Eric Rimm, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvadr’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told a reporter fromThe Washington Post.
How to Serve Berries to Babies and Toddlers
I love that berries fit well into whatever dietary preferences your family follows — whether you are raising a plant-based family, can’t wait to introduce meat to your baby, are vegan, low-carb, or anything in between, berries check all the boxes!
Below are some of our favorite ways to incorporate berries into your baby and toddler’s diet — but first, a quick note on buying berries: if they’re available and you’re able to, opt to purchase fresh local berries where you can, because these tend to be richer in all the nutrients we love berries for to begin with. If there aren’t local berries at your neighborhood grocery store or farmer’s market, don’t stress — berries bought and sold from afar are still great for your baby’s health.
*And don’t forget, frozen berries are a fantastic option with a similar nutritional profile to fresh berries that have the added benefits of keeping well and generally being more affordable than fresh berries. (Watch out for dried berries and canned berries, which often have added sugars.)
Berries for Babies
Berries are one of the easiest foods to offer babies who are transitioning to complementary solid foods — plus babies totally love them (for both their taste and their bright colors).
It takes almost no effort topuree berries, by blending them with a little water, nor to simplycut or smash berries up for a (*messy!) finger food. (Make sure to watch your baby’s face the first time you offer him any kind of berry — it’s hilarious, seriously.)
If you’re looking to make more than a single-food puree or want to play with a thicker-textured blend, some foods that berries pair especially well with are:
- Nut butters
- Ricotta cheese
- Sweet potato
If you don’t have fresh berries on hand or you don’t have the time to make your own puree, Amara organic baby food offers purees that don’t compromise on nutrition and offer carefully cultivated flavor pairings for your little food critic. Check out the Sweet Potato Raspberry, Oats n’ Berries, or Applesauce with Maqui Berry for your baby’s berry fix!
Berries for Toddlers
If berries are great for babies, so too are they perfect for toddlers. Here are some of the simplest ways to serve berries to your toddler:
- Straight up: One of the things I love most about berries is that they are the absolute easiest snack to serve to toddlers — other than rinsing them and plating them, there’s really very little to do! Yes, plain berries are the perfect treat on a hot summer afternoon — and they are oh-so-easy to pack for outings, day trips, beach excursions, and the like. I also love to include berries as a side for any breakfast or lunch I can, because they add such a colorful pop to my kids’ plates and are guaranteed to bring out a smile.
- Toppings: Berries are a perfect topper — we love mixing them into oatmeal, granola, yogurt, pancakes, or cottage cheese, for example. Another option is to mash up berries and smear them on whole grain toast — it’s a great healthy alternative to jam/jelly, and you can try different pairings (such as with almond butter, hummus, or ricotta cheese) for a fun little taste test.
- Smoothies: Berries are a wonderful addition to any smoothie — I love using frozen berries for smoothies (#easy), and tend to follow the “whatever’s around” method more than any strict recipe. My go-to? Frozen mixed berries blended with banana, dairy-free milk (or yogurt), nut butter, and a dash of cinnamon.
- Amara Organic Yogurt Melts: Amara’s toddler yogurt melts capture all the nutritional benefits of berries in a convenient packaged snack that toddlers love so much they literally think it’s candy (😂). Check out the Carrot Raspberry flavor (this one has a coconut milk base so it’s plant-based/vegan!) and the Beets n’ Berries, both of which have few ingredients, no additives or fillers, and NO added sugar.
We at Amara know that berries are loaded with nutritional benefits, and that’s why we’ve incorporated them into so many of our organic baby food blends and our toddler yogurt melt snacks. While fresh berries can be expensive and don’t tend to last very long, Amara foods are priced to meet every family’s budget and developed in tandem with a nutrition scientist to ensure not only top-notch flavor, texture, and nutrition in every package, but also a reliable shelf life! Learn more about Amara’s nutrient advantage and how we got started here — we can’t wait to hear from you.