A Guide to Nutritious Family Meals for Babies & Toddlers

By: The Main Meal

You're choice of foods and how you feed your baby and toddler have an important influence on their eating habits throughout life.

Which nutrients are important for growth & development?
The first 2 years of a baby's life is a time of rapid growth and development. Providing nutrient-rich foods will help meet requirements of essential nutrients at this important time.

Iron & zinc
Iron & zinc are vital for healthy growth and brain development. From around 6 months of age, your baby's iron & zinc stores can become depleted. At this stage, it is important to start introducing good sources of these nutrients such as iron-fortified rice cereal and red meat. Good sources of iron include red meat. Haem iron (found only in meat, fish, poultry) is absorbed 4 times better than non-haem iron. This means more iron is absorbed from meat, fish or poultry that from plant foods.

To support your baby's brain & visual development, a regular intake of omega-3 fatty acids are required. Fish is the best source of omega-3, with red meat making the largest contribution to intake in the Australian diet.

Calcium is important for strong bones and good teeth. Breast milk should be the main source of calcium in your baby's diet until at least 1 year of age unless breast milk is not tolerated by the baby. Whole-milk products such as yogurt and cheese can be introduced from 6 months of age. Full cream cow's milk can be offered to drink from 12 months of age.

Protein is required for growth & development and your baby requires more because it is growing so rapidly. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Some foods such as red meat contain all the amino acids which are essential for a healthy body.

Your baby's journey from puree to family meals

The Silky, Smooth stage
Around 6-7 months of age, red meat is suitable for babies. As soon as your baby has learnt to happily accept pureed or very finely mashed solid foods, red meat can become an important addition to the diet.

  • For a smooth texture, meat must be tender and moist. Puree with boiled water or casserole juices.
  • Blend meat with a variety of different vegetables such as zucchini, pumpkin & sweet potato.
  • If your baby rejects a new food, offer it again until the food becomes familiar and accepted.

    Recipe ideas during this life stage:
  • Silky Steak For Babies
  • Smooth Stew For Babies

    The Lumpy, Mushy Stage
    Around 7-9 months of age, it is important to encourage your baby to chew varying kinds of textures. This helps to develop muscles for chewing & speech.
  • Progress the texture to include small, fork mashed soft lumps.
  • Your baby is able to chew foods even without teeth.
  • A quick meaty meal during this life stage might be to pulse 2x 60 gram cooked cubes of beef or lamb in a blender with 1 tablespoon of boiled water until partially smooth. With a fork mash 1 piece of zucchini (about 20 grams) and a slice of pumpkin (about 30 grams) into the meat puree & then serve.

    The Finger Food Stage
    Around 9-12 months of age, your baby's hand control improves. Encourage them to feed themselves. You can even offer some soft finger foods earlier if they are able to grasp foods.
  • Cut food into small pieces which can easily be managed or held onto for chewing.
  • Do not serve hard foods such as raw carrot, celery, apples or nuts as these may cause your baby to choke. Large round foods such as grapes & sausage can also cause your baby to choke, however these can simply be cut into half or quarters.
  • Never leave your baby alone while they are eating or let them wander as they eat.

    The Toddler Stage
    around 12 months of age, your toddler will start exerting their independence. They can be picky about when and what foods they will eat. It is important you maintain control of the food on offer!
  • Let your toddler choose what to eat from a limited choice of only nutritious foods.
  • Avoid encouraging or rewarding them with less nutritious foods as a treat for finishing the plate!!
  • If your toddler does not eat as much as you think they should, do not offer a favourite alternative-even if they are nutritious e.g. cows milk.
  • Make water the only drink choice at meal time as filling up on milk and juices can reduce appetite and displace good sourced of iron & zinc.

    We have lots of recipes on this site for children at this life stage for example:
  • Toddlers Sweet Potato Gnocchi
  • Toddlers Chicken & Veggie Hotpot
  • Toddlers Easy Fried Rice

    How much food does my baby need?
  • Children have a natural ability to adjust the amount they eat according to their needs and growth patterns. Every child is different; some days they will eat more than other days.
  • Continue to offer small portions of nutritious foods & trust your child to decide how much to eat at each meal and over the day.

    Storing Red Meat For Babies
  • Cover, cool & refrigerate cooked meat immediately.

  • Always add moisture to sliced, cooked meat when freezing e.g. boiled water, meat juices, mashed veggies or casserole juices.
  • For small portions, freeze in ice cube trays and place in airtight freezer bags.
  • Thaw cubes in the fridge as required
  • Never refreeze meals that have been initially refrozen then thawed.

  • Reheat thawed or refrigerated meat meals in a small amount of water in a small pan.
  • Make sure the meat and juices boil for a few minutes to ensure the food is thoroughly heated through (heat to at least 70 degrees celsius).
  • Mix well and check temperature of the food before giving to your baby.


    Jul 29 2012 3:06AM
    I and my wife have olved this site very much; we were in a limbo on either to feed our 9months old Andreson with red meat or not.
    Now, we got it right, we are going to start this evening for there is meat for dinner.
    Thanks authors & God bless you!
    Comment by: Andrew
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