When starting to introduce solids into your baby’s diet (also known as weaning), making healthy choices is important to give them the right start by including a range of foods from the five core food groups.
From around 6 months of age, babies start to need more energy and nutrients than breast milk (or infant formula) alone can supply in order to grow and develop properly. Offering your baby, in addition to their usual milk (breast milk or infant formula), a wide variety of fresh, healthy foods from all the five food groups is the best way to provide the nutrients and energy they need.
Five Food Groups
Different types of foods that provide similar key nutrients are grouped together to form five core food groups – for example, all the foods in the dairy group are good sources of calcium and protein. By eating the recommended amounts of a variety of foods from each of the five food groups your baby should be able to meet their nutritional and energy needs.
The five healthy food groups are:
- Vegetables (and legumes/ beans)
- Grain foods (cereal, bread)
- Meats and alternatives
- Dairy and alternatives.
Fruit and Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colours and are an important part of everyone’s diet (including your baby’s) providing vitamins, antioxidants and fibre as well as energy.
By the time a baby is 7-12 months old, it’s recommended they eat between 1.5 to 2 serves of vegetables (and legumes/beans) and half a serve of fruit each day – a serve being 20 g.
Grain Foods (Breads and Cereals)
Grains such as wheat, oats, rice, rye, barley, millet and corn are used to make a variety of different cereal foods such as breakfast cereals, bread, pasta and noodles – or can be cooked and eaten whole.
Grain foods provide nutrients including carbohydrates, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals (including folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, iron, vitamin E, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus).
The recommended daily amount of breads and cereals for babies aged 7-12 months is 1.5 serves (1 serve is equivalent to 40 g of bread or 20g dried infant cereal).
h2>Dairy and Alternatives
Dairy products, which include milk, cheese and yogurts (or alternatives), are a great source of protein and the calcium needed to develop strong healthy bones and teeth.
Breast milk (or infant formula) is the best source of calcium for babies under the age of 12 months and cow’s milk should not become their main milk drink during this time (although small quantities may be used to make foods such as custards and cereals).
Reduced fat milk can be used after your child is two years old. The lower energy and fat in reduced fat milk is not suitable for children under 2 years, especially when this age group requires lot of energy to fuel rapid growth and development during this early period.
The recommended amount of breast milk or infant formula per day for babies aged 7-12 months is 1 serve (600 ml) with half a serve of yoghurt/cheese or alternatives (half a serve is equivalent to 20 g of yoghurt or 10 g of cheese).
Meats and Alternatives
Lean meat, fish, chicken, eggs, beans, lentils, chickpeas and tofu are all foods that provide a protein source. Protein is important for healthy growth and muscle development for your baby. In addition to protein, these foods also contain other important nutrients such as iron, zinc, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.
The recommended amount of lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs or tofu per day for babies aged 7-12 months is 1 serve (30 g).
Weaning your baby on to solid food will take time – starting with iron fortified infant cereal or other iron-rich foods, followed by other foods from the five food groups. Solid foods need to be the right texture and consistency for your baby’s age – there is an abundance of choice and variety of healthy foods from the five food groups you and your baby can share.