Healthy food and drinks

Avoiding sugary drinks like soft drink and fruit drinks is one of the best ways of preventing overweight and obesity and dental issues for your child.

You can make healthy food choices for your children. Set a good example by buying, cooking and eating healthy foods.

Solid foods

  • Start your baby on solids at 6 months, or within a few weeks of this age
  • When your baby first starts solids, include foods high in iron as they need more at this age. For example, pureed red meats, poultry or fish, pureed beans or lentils and iron fortified rice cereal. You can give these foods in any order and at a rate that suits your baby
  • Your baby may need to taste a new food as many as 10 times, sometimes even more, before they accept it
  • Offering your baby a wide range of foods and textures will help them enjoy a variety of food and less likely to be fussy about what they eat
  • Move from smooth purees to chunkier solid foods as your baby grows and becomes used to eating solid foods. Most babies can chew from 7 to 9 months, can manage finger foods around 8 months and by 12 months, can eat family foods.
1. Smooth purees around 6 months2. Lumpy food around 7 to 9 months
Baby food, puree, starting solidsBaby food, snacks, starting solids, healthy eating for kids, lumpy food
3. Finger foods around 8 months4. Family foods by 12 months
Baby food, snacks, starting solids, healthy eating for kids, finger foodBaby food, snacks, starting solids, healthy eating for kids, family food

Food and eating needs to be enjoyable and fun for children.

  • Let your child decide how much they want to eat and try not to pressure them to eat more or less food than they want to.

Food choices

  • Where possible, choose wholegrain-based breads, crackers and breakfast cereals. They are more filling than more processed white options
  • Provide your baby with homemade food as much as you can. If you regularly use store bought baby food, your baby may be less likely to eat family foods
  • Check ingredients on store bought baby foods, as some contain added sugar, salt or flavouring
  • Regular sucking of squeezy  food pouches can cause tooth decay and affect speech development
  • Don’t give honey to your child if they are under 12 months of age as it can cause a bacterial infection.

Snacks and occasional foodsBaby food, snacks, starting solids, healthy eating for kids

  • Most children need 3 main meals and 1 to 3 snacks a day depending on their hunger and activity
  • Choose snack foods based on fruit, vegetables, wholegrains or dairy foods that are filling and healthy
  • Food-free time between meals and snacks is important rather than continually snacking. This is so your child becomes aware of when they are hungry. If your child is always saying they are hungry they might actually be bored. Try to find something else for them to do rather than eat
  • Occasional foods tend to be high in saturated fat, added sugar, and added salt and have less important nutrients. They are sometimes referred to as ‘junk food’. Giving your child occasional foods, like packaged snacks, once or twice per week will give your child a balance between good nutrition and overeating.

Healthy drinks

  • Soft drinks, cordials and fruit drinks are high in energy and sugar, and don’t have many other nutrients
  • Breastmilk or infant formula are the main drinks in the first 12 months
  • From about 6 months, small amounts of cooled boiled water can also be given in a cup
  • After 12 months, the main drinks for children are full fat cow’s milk or tap water (not bottled water)
  • Reduced fat milk can be given after 2 years of age
  • Aim to replace all bottles with cups by 12 months of age.

Have set meals that are away from distractions

  • Eat meals away from distractions, such as the TV
  • Having set meals can help avoid eating constantly throughout the day, as this can lead to overeating
  • Eating together as a family strengthens social skills and attachment. It also results in better eating habits, self-esteem and school performance and a healthier weight.

More information is available in the NSW Health brochure on Starting Family Foods.

We also have factsheets you can read on healthy eating and nutrition in children: