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Baby and toddler meal ideas - Your pregnancy and baby guide

If you need some inspiration to help you cook healthy and tasty food for your kids, try these meal ideas.

They are not suitable as first foods, but fine once your baby is used to eating a wide range of solid foods. Read more about your baby's first solid foods.

When preparing food for babies, do not add sugar or salt (including stock cubes and gravy) directly to the food or to the cooking water.

You can find more meal ideas and recipes on the Start4Life website.

Breakfast ideas for babies and young children

  • unsweetened porridge or lower-sugar cereal mixed with whole milk and topped with fruit, such as mashed ripe pear or banana
  • wholewheat biscuit cereal (choose lower-sugar options) with whole milk and fruit
  • lower-sugar breakfast cereal and unsweetened stewed apple with plain, unsweetened yoghurt
  • toast fingers with mashed banana and smooth peanut butter (if possible, choose unsalted and no added sugar varieties)
  • toast fingers with a hard-boiled egg and slices of tomato, banana or ripe peach
  • toast or muffin fingers with scrambled egg and slices of tomato

Lunch ideas for babies and young children

  • lamb curry with rice
  • cauliflower cheese with cooked pasta pieces
  • baked beans (reduced salt and sugar) with toast
  • scrambled egg with toast, chapatti or pitta bread served with vegetable finger foods
  • cottage cheese (full-fat) dip with pitta bread, cucumber and carrot sticks

Dinner ideas for babies and young children

  • mashed sweet potato with chickpeas and cauliflower
  • shepherd's pie (made with beef or lamb and/or lentils or vegetarian mince) with green vegetables
  • rice and mashed peas with courgette sticks
  • minced chicken and vegetable casserole with mashed potato
  • mashed canned salmon with couscous and peas
  • fish poached in milk with potato, broccoli and carrot

Finger foods for babies and young children

Finger food is food that's cut up into pieces big enough for your child to hold in their fist with a bit sticking out. Pieces about the size of your own finger work well.

Examples of finger foods:

  • soft-cooked vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, courgette, parsnip and sweet potato
  • carrot or cucumber sticks and avocado
  • fresh fruits, such as apple (soft-cooked if needed), banana or soft, ripe peeled pear or peach
  • toast, pitta or chapatti fingers
  • unsalted and unsweetened rice or corn cakes
  • strips of meat without bones, such as chicken and lamb
  • cheesy (full-fat) toast fingers and cucumber
  • hard boiled eggs
  • omelette fingers

Healthy snacks for young children

Babies under 12 months do not need snacks; if you think your baby is hungry in between meals, offer extra milk feeds instead.

Once your baby is 1 year old, you can introduce 2 healthy snacks in between meals:

  • vegetables such as broccoli florets, carrot sticks or cucumber sticks
  • slices of fruit, such as apple, banana or soft, ripe peeled pear or peach
  • pasteurised, plain, unsweetened full-fat yoghurt
  • toast, pitta or chapatti fingers
  • unsalted and unsweetened rice or corn cakes
  • small cubes of cheese

Getting your child to eat fruit and vegetables

It may take up to 10 tries, or even more, for your child to get used to new foods, flavour and textures.

Be patient and keep offering a variety of fruits and vegetables, including ones with bitter flavours such as broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and cabbage.

Try to make sure fruits and vegetables are included in every meal.

Try these ways to help your child eat more fruit and vegetables:

  • give carrot sticks, cucumber stick or slices of pepper with hummus as a snack
  • give apple slices with smooth peanut butter as a snack
  • mix chopped or mashed vegetables with rice, mashed potatoes, meat sauces or dhal
  • add vegetables to classic savoury dishes such as cottage or shepherd's pie, spaghetti bolognese or casseroles
  • chop prunes or dried apricots into cereal or plain, unsweetened yoghurt, or add them to a stew
  • for a tasty dessert, try mixing fruit (fresh, canned or stewed) with plain, unsweetened yoghurt.

Read more about how to help your baby enjoy new foods and fussy eaters.

Drinks for babies and young children

From around 6 months, breast milk and first infant formula should continue to be your baby's main drink.

Whole cows' milk can be used in cooking or mixed with food from around 6 months but shouldn't be given as a drink until they are 12 months old. Whole milk should be given to children until they are 2 years old, as they need the extra energy and vitamins it contains.

Semi-skimmed milk can be introduced once your child is 2 years old, as long as they are a good eater and they have a varied diet.

Skimmed and 1% milk are not suitable for children under 5 years old, as they do not contain enough calories.

Sugary squashes, flavoured milk, "fruit" or "juice" drinks and sugary fizzy drinks can cause tooth decay, even when diluted. These drinks can also fill your child up so they're not hungry for healthier food. Instead, offer sips of water from a cup with meals.

Read more about drinks and cups for babies and young children.

Further information

Page last reviewed: 21 May 2019
Next review due: 21 May 2022