When starting to introduce solids into your baby’s diet (also known as weaning), making healthy choices for baby nutrition is important. This will help 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 baby food groups is the best way to provide the nutrients and energy they need.
What are the 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
Much like fruits, vegetables come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colours. As well as legumes and beans, vegetables are an important part of everyone’s diet (including your baby’s) as they provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, dietary fibre and energy. Best of all, they can be eaten in a variety of ways, whether they are cooked as part of a larger meal or enjoyed raw on their own.
By the time your baby is 7-12 months old, it’s recommended they eat between 1.5 to 2 serves of vegetables (and legumes/beans) each day.
Fruits are delicious and full of variety, coming in all shapes and sizes. These bright and colourful foods are an essential part of a healthy diet – from full-grown adults right down to babies who are just starting to try new foods. This is because they are packed full of vitamins and dietary fibre, as well as energy to keep your little one growing well.
By the time a baby is 7-12 months old, it’s recommended they eat half a serve of fruit each day, with a full single serve being 20g.
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 they 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 40g of bread or 20g of dried infant cereal).
Dairy and Alternatives
Dairy products, which include milk, cheese and yoghurts (or alternatives), are a great source of protein and 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 two years, especially when this age group requires a 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 one serve (600mL) with half a serve of yoghurt/cheese or alternatives (half a serve is equivalent to 20g of yoghurt or 10g of cheese).
Meats and Alternatives
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.
Here are some of the most popular meats and protein-packed alternatives according to different categories:
- Lean meats: Beef, lamb, pork, kangaroo, as well as lean lower-sodium sausages.
- Poultry: Chicken, turkey and duck.
- Fish and seafood: A variety of different fish, as well as prawns, mussels and scallops.
- Legumes and beans: A variety of different beans, as well as lentils, chickpeas, tofu and more.
The recommended amount of lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs or tofu per day for babies aged 7-12 months is 1 serve (30g).
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 for babies. 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.