Giving your baby different healthy foods and flavours means they're more likely to eat well later

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Taste for life - giving your baby a variety of food now may prevent fussy eating later

Babies like the foods they get used to. If you give babies very salty or sweet food and drink when they are little, then they will get used to these tastes and are likely to find healthier food bland in comparison.

On the other hand if you give them lots of different, healthy foods to try when they are babies and toddlers, they are more likely to eat a variety of healthy foods as they grow up.

A matter of taste

It's much easier to give your baby a taste for healthy food now, than to try and change what they eat when they are older.

The 'taste for life' timeline: first foods first!

Our timeline shows what sort of foods to give your baby at the different stages of their development.

0 months onwards

Milk

Breast milk or formula milk (follow on milk is not suitable for babies below six months).

Solid food

If, having spoken to your doctor or health visitor, you decide to introduce solid foods before six months, you should avoid giving your baby wheat, nuts, seeds, liver, eggs, fish and shellfish, and soft unpasteurised cheese.

Six months onwards

Milk

At about six months your baby is ready for some solid food. But milk is still important for their development. Keep feeding breast milk (or formula milk) as you introduce them to solid foods. If you are formula feeding you don't need to move to follow on milk. Babies shouldn’t drink cow’s milk before 12 months.

Solid food

First foods first!
Introduce your baby to simple, natural foods first. Start with cooked vegetables (such as parsnip, potato, yam, sweet potato or carrot), mashed banana, avocado, pear or cooked apple, and any fist-sized pieces of soft fruit or veg. You can also try cereals such as baby rice mixed with milk.

What next?
Once your baby has got used to eating simple, natural foods, you can offer them other healthy foods such as meat, fish, pasta, noodles, bread, chapatti, lentils, and mashed rice. You can also introduce them to well-cooked eggs, and full fat, low sugar dairy products like cheese, yoghurt, fromage frais, or custard.

By eight to nine months your baby should be used to a wide range of soft and mashed food, at three meals a day and be starting to have soft finger foods like cooked veg, pasta or peeled cooked fruit.

At 10-12 months, your baby will be having chopped rather than mashed foods, at their three meals a day, and also enjoying some firmer finger foods, like fresh fruit and veg, and pieces of meat or fish.

Honey and cow’s milk as a drink should not be introduced before one year.

Twelve months onwards

Milk

At 12 months you can give full fat cow's milk as a drink, although you can add cow’s milk to food before 12 months.

Solid food

Meals and snacks
By now your baby can fit in with the family by eating three meals a day. They will also need healthy snacks between meals as well as two to three cups of milk each day.

Avoid snacks with lots of added sugar and keep offering healthy snacks/finger foods such as vegetables, bread or pieces of pasta, potato, meat or fish to encourage them to be independent eaters. Remember that babies need full fat milk and dairy products until they are two years old because they need the extra fat and vitamins in full fat dairy products.

Whole nuts should not be given before five years as they may cause choking.

Two years onwards

Milk

You can introduce semi-skimmed milk from two years of age, provided your child is a good eater and growing well. Skimmed milk doesn’t contain enough fat so is not recommended for children under five.

Five years onwards

Milk

You can give skimmed milk as a drink from five years of age.

Solid food

By now your kids should be eating the same foods as the family, as long as these are healthy. You can introduce whole nuts from five years of age.
Why not check out Change4Life to get more healthy tips?

Top tips

Demonstrate

Babies copy their parents, so you can help them by showing them that you like eating lots of different healthy foods too.

If it first you don't succeed

Don't be put off if it takes a while for your baby to like something, it really is worth the effort. Babies like familiar foods, and sometimes you need to offer a food 10-15 times before your baby will like it. Just letting them look at, feel and smell something new will help them to get used to it, and when they are ready, they'll be happy to eat it. If you offer them some of your healthy food, or freeze batches of home made food in ice cube trays (and reheat the amount you need) then it means you don’t need to worry about waste either.

Finger feeds

It's a good idea to allow your baby to feed themselves using their fingers. This way they can show you how much they want to eat, and it gets them familiar with the different types of food.

From seven to eight months, babies can be given soft finger foods like peeled cooked fruit, cooked veg, pasta, boiled potato or hard-boiled egg. From about nine to 10 months, babies will be able to hold and chew raw fruit and veg, toast, pieces of meat or fish.

Always give them small pieces at a time, and stay with them when they are eating to make sure they don't choke.

What's in a week?

It's natural for parents to worry about whether their baby is getting enough food, especially if they refuse to eat sometimes. The trick is not to worry about what your baby eats in a day, or if they don't eat everything in a meal, instead you need to think about what they eat in a week.

Tiny tums

A baby's stomach is only about the size of their clenched fist, so they can only eat small amounts.

Babies know when they are full up, so it's important not to try and make them eat when they don't want to. This can turn eating into a stressful experience for both of you, and can make them feel full and uncomfortable. It may be better to give them smaller but more frequent meals instead.

Jars just sometimes

Baby food in jars or packets can be a handy way to feed a baby, but they taste pretty similar and often have the same texture. This means that babies get used to food tasting the same, which makes it more difficult to get them to try different foods.

If you do give them a jar you don't need to give your baby the whole lot – set some aside and see how they get on.

Made from scratch

The best food for babies is food that is homemade from simple ingredients with no added sugar or salt. That way you can know exactly what your baby is eating. Making food for a baby can be very easy and it also works out cheaper than jars.

You can also save time, money and waste by freezing batches of home made food in an ice cube tray for later feeds.

Salt free

Salt is damaging for babies' bodies so it's important to make sure none has been added to your baby’s food. Foods like stock cubes and gravy can contain lots of salt so may not be suitable. Don't forget, if your baby is trying some of your food make sure you haven’t added any salt.

Sugar free

Eating and drinking sugary things when they are little could lead to tooth decay even in babies. They don't need added sugar so it's best to avoid giving it.

Stay with them

Always stay with your little one when they are eating to make sure they don't choke. Avoid with hard foods, bones, small round foods, whole nuts and foods with skin.

And finally…

If, having spoken to your doctor or health visitor, you decide to introduce solid foods before six months, you should avoid giving your baby wheat, nuts, seeds, liver, eggs, fish and shellfish, and soft unpasteurised cheese.

Honey and cow's milk as a drink should not be introduced before 1 year. Whole nuts should not be given before five years as they may cause choking.

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