Healthy food for babies and toddlers nsw health

Healthy food groups: babies & toddlers

What is healthy food for babies and toddlers?

Healthy food for babies and toddlers includes a wide variety of fresh foods from the five healthy food groups:

  • vegetables
  • fruit
  • grains
  • dairy
  • protein.

Each food group has different nutrients, which your child’s body needs to grow and work properly. That’s why we need to eat a range of foods from across all five food groups.

Going from drinking breastmilk or infant formula to eating family meals takes time, and your baby won’t be eating food from all five food groups straight away. Starting your baby on solids is the first step. Once your baby has started eating solids, try to include foods from a variety of groups at each meal.

Fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables give your child energy, vitamins, anti-oxidants, fibre and water. These nutrients help to protect your baby from diseases later in life, including diseases like heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

It’s a good idea to offer your baby fruit and vegetables at every meal and for snacks. Try to choose fruit and vegies of different colours, tastes and textures, both fresh and cooked.

Wash fruit to remove dirt or chemicals, and leave any edible skin on, because the skin contains nutrients too.

Many children seem to be ‘fussy’ about eating fruit and vegies. You can help by being a healthy eating role model. If your child sees you eating a wide range of vegetables and fruit, your child is more likely to try them too.

Grain foods

Grain foods include bread, pasta, noodles, breakfast cereals, couscous, rice, corn, quinoa, polenta, oats and barley. These foods give children the energy they need to grow, develop and learn.

Grain foods with a low glycaemic index, like wholegrain pasta and breads, will give your child longer-lasting energy and keep them feeling fuller for longer.


Key dairy foods are milk, cheese and yoghurt. These foods are good sources of protein and calcium.

Dairy foods can be introduced from around six months of age. But make sure that breastmilk or infant formula is your baby’s main drink until around 12 months of age, when most children are eating family meals. After that, you can give your child full-fat cow’s milk if they’re eating a balanced diet.

Because children in this age group are growing so quickly and need a lot of energy, they need full-fat dairy products until they turn two.

If you’re thinking of feeding your baby dairy alternatives, it’s best to talk to your paediatrician, GP or child and family health nurse.


Protein-rich foods include lean meat, fish, chicken, eggs, beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu and nuts. These foods are important for your child’s growth and muscle development.

These foods also contain other useful vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. Iron and omega-3 fatty acids from red meat and oily fish are particularly important for your child’s brain development and learning.

Have a look at our illustrated dietary guidelines for children 1-2 years and illustrated dietary guidelines for children 2-3 years for more information about daily food portions and recommendations. You can also speak to a dietitian if you have concerns about your child’s eating.

Healthy drinks

Water is the healthiest drink for children over 12 months. It’s also the cheapest. Most tap water is fortified with fluoride for strong teeth too.

From six months, breastfed and formula-fed babies can have small amounts of cooled boiled tap water from a cup.

Foods and drinks to limit

It’s best to limit the amount of ‘sometimes’ food your child eats. This means your child will have more room for healthy, everyday foods.

‘Sometimes’ foods include fast food, takeaway and junk food like hot chips, potato chips, dim sims, pies, burgers and takeaway pizza. These foods also include cakes, chocolate, lollies, biscuits, doughnuts and pastries.

‘Sometimes’ foods can be high in salt, saturated fat and sugar, and low in fibre. Regularly eating these foods can increase the risk of health conditions like childhood obesity and type-2 diabetes.

You should also limit sweet drinks for your child, including fruit juice, cordials, sports drinks, flavoured waters, soft drinks and flavoured milks. Sweet drinks are high in sugar and low in nutrients.

Too many sweet drinks can lead to unhealthy weight gain, obesity and tooth decay. These drinks fill your child up and can make them less hungry for healthy meals. If children regularly have sweet drinks when they’re young, it can kick off an unhealthy lifelong habit.

Foods and drinks with caffeine aren’t recommended for children, because caffeine stops the body from absorbing calcium well. Caffeine is also a stimulant, which means it gives children artificial energy. These foods and drinks include coffee, tea, energy drinks and chocolate.

Healthy alternatives for snacks and desserts
It’s fine to offer your child snacks, but try to make sure they’re healthy. Fruit and vegetables are a good choice – for example, grated or thinly sliced carrot or apple.

The same goes for dessert at the end of a meal. Sliced fruit or yoghurt are healthy options. If you want to serve something special, try homemade banana bread. Save the seriously sweet stuff, like cakes and chocolate, for special occasions like birthdays.

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating says that both children and adults should avoid or limit sometimes food. It’s best to save these foods for special occasions.

Baby and toddler meal ideas

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 strips 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
  • Foods to avoid giving babies and young children
  • Food allergies in children
  • What to feed young children
  • Toodler food: common questions
  • Children's food: safety and hygiene

How to eat right: healthy nutrition for children

Immunity, physical and mental development of the child, his eating behavior in adulthood depend on the quality of nutrition. To teach your baby to choose healthy foods when there are so many temptations around, a clear action plan of 12 simple steps will help.

Why healthy nutrition is important for children

First of all, insufficient consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits, meat, cereals, wholemeal bread leads to a deficiency of vitamins and minerals in the body. Because of this, not only working capacity decreases, but also immunity decreases, colds occur more often [1] .

Abuse of sweets, soda and fast food, frequent snacks provoke a set of extra pounds. And if it is customary in the family to encourage the good behavior of the child with a tasty treat, then wrong eating habits are formed in him. This, in turn, provokes a desire to eat stress in adulthood [2] .

In addition, the lack of protein, mineral salts, fluorine, as well as the increased consumption of simple sugars (cookies, sweets) contribute to the development of caries. Bacteria in the mouth break down sugar and form acids that demineralize the hard tissues of the tooth [3] .

Principles of proper nutrition

Numerous epidemiological studies conducted in recent years by specialists from the Research Institute of Pediatrics of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, the Scientific Center for Children's Health of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences and other medical institutions in Russia have revealed significant violations in the structure of nutrition and nutritional status of children and adolescents [1] . Skipping breakfast, overindulging on sweets, snacking instead of lunch or dinner, and lacking variety in your diet are just some of the problems.

In order for the food to bring only benefits to the child, it is recommended to follow the advice of specialists.

  1. Maintain a balance between the incoming food and the child's energy expenditure. Daily energy consumption in children depends on age: at 7–11 years old, 2100 kcal per day is needed, from 11 to 14 years old - 2300–2500, from 14 to 18 years old – 2500–2900 kcal [4] .

  2. Maintain a balance between proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. In accordance with modern concepts, the daily diet of a healthy child should have a ratio of proteins, fats and carbohydrates of 1:1:4 [4] . A varied diet, including fruits, vegetables, cereals, nuts, meat, legumes, and dairy products, will help provide the body with vitamins and minerals.

  3. Maintain a consistent diet. From the point of view of physiology, it is useful to eat 3-4 times a day at the same time during the day with intervals of no more than 4-5 hours [5] .

How to teach a child to eat right

Lead by example. nine0050 All homemade food should be healthy. This means a minimum of processing, sugar and frying. Do not eat a hamburger or pizza with a child. A simple analysis will help to calculate the weaknesses in the family diet and take a look at the usual diet from the outside - you need to write down all the foods eaten within a week. After that, it will become clear what you need to get rid of. It is easier for children to eat the “right” foods if it is a matter of course in their family.

Tell about the benefits of products in an accessible language. nine0050 It is difficult for a child to understand what excess weight, gastritis and caries are. Health problems seem to him distant and insignificant. It is better to go from the other side and explain to the child the specific benefits of the product. For example, meat will make him strong and it will be easier to pass physical education standards, buckwheat will give energy for games, and nuts will help you solve math problems faster. Teenagers can be taught about the impact of proper nutrition on appearance.

Develop a diet. Rituals make the life of children clear and stable, and parents save time and nerves. In addition, a clear regime helps to avoid endless snacking, and the habit of eating at the same time promotes better digestion. It is optimal to make intervals between meals 4-5 hours long and not to have dinner right before bedtime. At night, the body should rest and recuperate, and not digest [4] . It is better to gather with the whole family during meals. So it will be easier for the child to adopt healthy eating habits, learn table manners and discuss all the news.

Monitor the quantity and quality of snacks. If a child often bites during the day, then by lunch or dinner, he simply does not have time to get hungry. Snacking drowns out the natural feeling of hunger and interferes with the normal absorption of food. For toddlers, two snacks are allowed, for older students - one. It is desirable that they also consist of healthy foods: nuts, dried fruits, dairy products. nine0065

Bring food to school. It is difficult to control school meals, because the child will gladly choose a sausage in dough or a chocolate bar, rather than a hot lunch. To avoid this, you can cook him food with you. Lunchbox with homemade salad, healthy sandwiches and meatballs will help you stay healthy.

Don't force people to eat things they don't like. If the child does not eat a particular product, do not get hung up on this and try to shove it at any cost. Another vegetable or fruit that is rich in the same useful vitamins and minerals is perfect for a replacement. nine0003

Buy sweets in portions. No junk food - no temptation to eat it. Therefore, you need to buy sweets in the amount in which you can immediately give them to children. So you don’t have to forbid “eat one more candy”.

Giving choice. Let the child decide for himself from several healthy food options which he likes best. That way he won't feel like he's being forced to eat something in particular. This means that there is no need to resist.

Use fantasy. If the child does not eat stewed zucchini, he may like zucchini pancakes. From cottage cheese you can make cheesecakes, casseroles or cheesecake. There are many ways to fool a child. You can also use the child's interest in everything new and involve him in the cooking process. This is not only a pleasant pastime, but also the study of products, the acquisition of new skills. And, of course, eating a dish that I cooked myself is very interesting.

Organize forbidden food days. nine0050 So that food does not become the number one goal for a child, you need to spend days of emotional unloading. Sometimes it is enough to go to a fast food restaurant or order food at home. It doesn’t matter if the kid likes a burger or pizza, it’s important not to make something special out of it.

Be consistent. It takes time to develop the habit of eating right. You can not give slack, no matter how much the child is capricious. It is also important to tell grandmothers and other relatives about the rules. The whole family should adhere to a single strategy in nutrition. nine0003

Encourage. When a child chooses healthy food, he should be praised. Just do not use products as a reward. A bad option is to promise a chocolate bar for an eaten plate of broccoli.

List of sources:
  1. Fayzullina R. A. Nutrition of modern schoolchildren: state of the problem, possible solutions. // URL: (date of access: 29.11.2020).

  2. Bardymova T. P., Mikhaleva O. G., Berezina M. V. A modern view on the problem of obesity. // URL: (date of access: 11/29/2020).

  3. Nelovko TV, Oganova KM, Fedorov SA Nutritional hygiene in the prevention of dental diseases. // URL: (date of access: 29.11.2020).

  4. Stankevich S. S. Nutrition of school-age children. // URL: (date of access: 11/29/2020).

  5. Soboleva LG, Sharshakova TM Schoolchildren nutrition: hygienic assessment and ways of rationalization. // URL: (date of access: 11/29/2020).

Proper nutrition for children - the basics of a healthy diet for every day

Many parents are much more responsible for organizing the nutrition of their children than they are for their own diet. And it’s completely in vain, because the formation of a culture of healthy nutrition for children is formed not only by compiling an ideal menu for a child. The eating behavior of the whole family is extremely important, which the baby pays attention to and which in the future forms his own eating habits and preferences. nine0003

The importance of proper nutrition for children

The development of the child's body is influenced by a combination of factors, but the most important role belongs to food. The development of the child, the formation of basic skills, not only in childhood, but also in adulthood, depends on a diet that is correctly compiled in early childhood.

Proper nutrition improves mental acuity, memory, mood, promotes proper growth and development of the body, helps maintain weight and metabolism. With a balanced healthy diet, you can prevent the development of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, arterial hypertension and a number of others. nine0003

Proper nutrition is one of the main ways to maintain health and a high quality of life for a long time. Most human eating habits are formed in childhood and remain with him for life. Therefore, it is very important that the baby eats properly from the first days of life.

What is the right diet for a child

A healthy diet for a child every day is food that contains all the necessary nutrients. Unfortunately, today many children make their choice in favor of fast food, and parents do not limit them in any way. Yes, it is quite tasty and such dishes are prepared quickly, which means that you can quickly feed the child without wasting your time preparing food. nine0003

But the fact is that fast food is extremely unhealthy, not only for children, but also for adults. It leads to the development of obesity, disrupts metabolic processes, affects the digestive organs, which does not fit into the idea of ​​healthy nutrition at all.

Here are the basic principles of proper nutrition:

  • every day on the table there should be products that completely cover the body's need for nutrients;
  • nutrition should be balanced; nine0032
  • food is recommended to be boiled, baked in the oven, steamed, but it is better to refuse fried, smoked, pickled, canned food, as well as fast food;
  • if the child has intolerance to certain products, then the menu should be adjusted accordingly.

When to teach a child to eat healthy

It is important to teach your child to eat healthy from an early age. This will help shape your eating habits. A study was conducted in which nutritionists observed the eating behavior of one and a half thousand children from birth to the age of six. It turned out that children who were given little fruits and vegetables in the first year of life refused to eat them at 6 years old. The best age for teaching a child to proper nutrition is from 6 months. nine0003

By the way, the baby gets acquainted with many tastes even before his birth. While in the mother's abdomen, he swallows amniotic fluid. The taste of this liquid depends on what a woman eats during pregnancy.

After birth, the baby is breastfed and the taste of milk also depends on the mother's diet. This may be why breastfed babies transition to complementary foods much more easily than formula-fed babies.

It has been proven that the child's perception of new foods is highly dependent on whether they were present in the mother's diet during pregnancy and lactation. Therefore, a woman needs to be extremely careful about her diet at this time. It should be hypoallergenic, balanced and rational.

Some food preferences are noticeable in a child in the first months of his life. For example, he may enjoy eating salty and sweet foods, while refusing sour or bitter foods. In part, this is a protective function of the body, which, just in case, tries to avoid bitter foods, as they may contain toxic substances. However, not all bitter foods are unhealthy. nine0003

Healthy diet for children

The formation of healthy eating habits in children begins with the right diet. Most of all, the body of children and adolescents needs protein. It is a building material for a growing organism, and also compensates for energy losses. The younger the child, the more protein he needs. The most valuable and useful protein product for babies is mother's milk. Also in the children's diet should be vegetable proteins, which are found in legumes and grain products. Many legumes in terms of protein content can be compared with products such as meat, eggs, cottage cheese, fish. nine0003

In addition, the child's body needs essential amino acids that are not produced by the body and must be supplied with food. Amino acids play a huge role in the metabolic processes occurring in the body, and perform many other functions.

The diet must contain fats. These are more concentrated sources of energy than carbohydrates. In addition, the composition of fats includes vitamins A and E, important for the child's body, as well as phospholipids, PUFAs. For children, the best sources of fats are milk, butter, eggs. But the abuse of fats is highly discouraged, as this leads to metabolic disorders, digestive disorders, decreased appetite, and the development of obesity. In addition, excess fat leads to a violation of the absorption of proteins. nine0003

Young children need less carbohydrates than fats and proteins. An excess of carbohydrates (especially sugar) impairs the development and growth of children, reduces immunity, and increases the likelihood of developing caries. Useful sources of carbohydrates are fruits, vegetables, fresh juices, berries.

The children's body is also in dire need of vitamins (especially A and D). With a lack of vitamin D, rickets develops, hypovitaminosis A leads to disruption of the endocrine system. The most important minerals are calcium, iron and iodine. nine0003

The key to health for children is to limit the consumption of sweets. Cookies, jam, marshmallows, sweets can be given, but in small quantities and not every day.

Basic Rules

Here is a brief guide for parents on the rules of healthy eating for children:

1. The best example for children is their parents. Therefore, deciding to instill in your child the habits of proper nutrition, start with yourself.

2. Don't let your child snack on the go. The process of eating should take place at the kitchen table, without a phone, TV or tablet. It is necessary that the child was completely focused on eating, the only way to ensure the normal absorption of food. nine0003

3. When compiling a menu for every day, consider not only the benefits of the products, but also the tastes of the child, as well as the individual characteristics of his body (allergies, the presence of chronic diseases, and so on).

4. Set a clear diet. The baby should eat at certain hours. There should be at least four meals a day.

5. Buy only fresh and high-quality products in stores. Pay attention to the expiration date and composition. nine0003

Remember that by teaching your baby to eat right, you are laying the foundation for his future health.

Possible problems

If a child constantly eats improperly, abuses fast food and other junk food, then the following health problems may develop over time:

  • lagging behind peers in development and growth;
  • obesity;
  • lack of iodine, iron, vitamins and other nutrients in the body; nine0032
  • gastritis;
  • deterioration in general well-being, lethargy, weakness, lethargy.

Some teenage girls start to go on a strict diet to fit the ideals imposed by the fashion world. This negatively affects their health, leads to disruption of the cycle, which in the future may cause the development of infertility.

Boys have other problems. Some of them, in an effort to find a beautiful muscular body, begin to get involved in hormonal drugs, and also eat improperly, which can also lead to health problems over time. nine0003

Thus, proper nutrition is of decisive importance for children, starting from birth. And the task of parents is to provide them with fresh, high-quality products and make the right diet. This will help you avoid many health problems in the future.

Is it necessary to force children to eat

Quite often, children refuse to eat healthy food, citing the fact that they do not like it. Should they be forced to do it against their will? Of course not. But it is quite possible and even necessary to convince the child to eat calmly and reasonably. nine0003

Remember how our mothers and grandmothers told many of us in an ultimatum form that until we had eaten all the food on the plate, they would not let us out from the table? And how did you feel about it? Surely, such a statement did not add motivation.

Many mothers take the fact that the child does not eat the food prepared by them as a personal insult. They believe that the child neglects care and does not appreciate the time spent on him. In fact, this position is selfish. Up takes a sense of resentment for the fact that the children rejected their care and love. nine0003

But this is absolutely not true. The child still loves them very much, and the reasons for the lack of appetite usually lie in a completely different plane. You just need to confidentially and calmly discuss the situation and understand what's going on.

Scientists have found that there is a link between forcing a child to eat and eating disorders in adulthood. In Western countries, a child is often forced to eat healthy food, motivated by the fact that it is fashionable, healthy, tasty, expensive. And, for example, in some Third World countries, a mother will be ashamed if her child is thin, since in this case the neighbors will consider that the family is poor. nine0003

In general, motivation can be very different. Unfortunately, the total control of parents regarding nutrition often leads to negative consequences in the adult life of the child. The same applies to the ban on fast food, chips and other junk food. The forbidden fruit is always sweet, and the child begins to perceive such food as an inaccessible pleasure, which further increases the desire to eat it.

And vice versa, forcing the baby to eat wholesome food against his will, parents achieve the exact opposite effect. The child simply ceases to perceive this product as food, which will inevitably have a negative impact on his eating habits in the future. nine0003

Article sources:

  1. Nutrition of young children. Netrebenko O.K. Pediatrics. Journal them. G. N. Speransky, 2007.

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