Baby's First Food Has Taken a Dramatic Turn

Taste writer Cathy Erway looks at the industry's response to a nation of avocado eaters
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2024 5:33 AM CDT
We're Raising a Nation of Avocado Eaters
A worker packs avocados at a plant in Uruapan, Michoacan state, Mexico.   (AP Photo/Armando Solis)

While the common recommendation from pediatricians not long ago was to spoon-feed weaning babies infant cereal, the mindset has shifted in many circles, compounded by concerns about contaminants in baby foods. So when Taste writer Cathy Erway introduced her baby to solid food, that solid food was avocado. Soft, subtle, and chockfull of nutrients, the fruit has become a popular choice for new parents introducing their babies to solids. "I remember feeling completely overwhelmed," celebrity chef Pati Jinich tells Erway about those early parenting days. "Avocados are very nutritious, and it's very easy for babies because you just mash it, you don't have to cook it."

Erway explores the ways in which avocados have shifted from a seasonal appetizer for Cinco de Mayo or the Super Bowl to the first food many 6-month-olds in the US are sampling. TODAY lists avocado up top in the five foods babies should be eating. "It's not only trendy to start avocado as a first food; it's also extremely healthy," writes Dr. Tanya Altmann. Erway notes that for a long time the American diet eschewed fats, including healthy ones, but has slowly embraced a more nuanced understanding. Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats, which are important to brain health, vitamin absorption, and digestion. "We had it backward for so long, everything needing to be fat-free, and people just got more sick," notes dietician Stephanie Middleberg.

The shift can be seen in dollar signs. America's growing taste for avocado has tripled since 2001, to an estimated eight pounds per person per year. Paired with an uptick in global imports, Mexico's $2.84 billion industry has experienced turmoil to fit the demand, including land seizures, deforestation, and violence. Erway profiles US growers and importers who have leveraged the demand as well, seeking to add quality and diversity to what's available. "I see the rise of avocados in the United States as a success story of how ingredients from one culture can enrich another," Jinich says. "But, of course, everything has to be in balance and well regulated." (The world is getting a new avocado.)

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