At Cow & Gate, we are committed to helping Mums give their babies the best nutritional start, from 0-36 months. Cow & Gate fully endorse breastfeeding as the best way to feed babies. Breastmilk is an ever changing nutritious milk fluid and perfectly tailored to meet your baby's growing needs. We are dedicated to helping establish the lifelong foundations for healthy food preferences and eating habits by providing Mums with the best in complementary weaning products, which provide the right balance of nutrition, for the right moment in your baby’s development.
What you give your baby in their early years will help shape their future eating habits. More and more research has shown that good feeding practices in the baby and toddler years will lead to long-term health benefits well into adulthood.
Foods to Avoid
There are some foods you should avoid in the early weaning stages. Some of the following foods may cause food allergies or make your baby ill. These include:
Gluten is a protein found in the cereals - wheat, rye, oat and barley. The early introduction of gluten into the diet is linked with the rate of coeliac disease. The Department of Health & Children does not recommend the introduction of gluten until six months of age. More recent advice from a group of European medical experts recommends that gluten should be introduced not before four months and not after seven months of age.
Occasionally, honey contains bacteria which can produce toxins in a baby’s intestines, leading to a very serious illness (infant botulism). It’s best not to give your baby honey until they are at least one year old. Honey is a sugar, so avoiding it will also help to prevent tooth decay.
It is recommended that children with a family history of asthma, eczema, hay fever or food allergy should avoid peanuts and peanut products until the age of 3 years. Whole nuts are not recommended for children under 5 because of the risk of choking. Peanuts are not recommended for any infant <12 months of age. Peanut allergy is usually severe and sensitive children may even react to peanut dust. Therefore care should be taken to prevent any reactions in a peanut allergic child by preparing food in a designated area.
Fat is an important source of calories and some vitamins for babies and young children. It’s better for babies and young children under two to have full-fat milk, yogurt and cheese rather than low-fat varieties. Choose full fat options.
Shark, swordfish and marlin
Don't give your baby shark, swordfish or marlin. The amount of mercury in these fish can affect a baby’s growing nervous system.
Raw shellfish can increase the risk of food poisoning so it’s best not to give it to babies.
Eggs can be given to babies over six months old, but make sure they're cooked until both the white and yolk are solid to avoid any risk of contamination.
Foods to Limit
Babies cannot cope with too much salt in their diet as it isn't good for their little developing kidneys. Babies need no more than 1/6th of an adult’s maximum daily needs for salt, which is less than 1g of salt per day. Don't add salt to your baby’s food and don't use stock cubes or gravy as they're often high in salt. Remember this when you’re cooking for the family if you plan to give the same food to your baby.
Your baby doesn’t need any excess sugar. By avoiding sugary snacks and drinks, you'll help to prevent tooth decay and a preference for very sweet foods. Use mashed banana or fruits, breastmilk or formula milk to sweeten food if necessary.
Don't give your baby too many foods that are high in saturated or 'bad' fat, such as crisps, chips, cakes and biscuits. These foods should only be given occasionally.
e.g. bread products, cereals (pasta/rice) and potatoes. These foods provide your baby with the energy they need to grow, develop and sustain their daily activities. By the time your baby reaches their first birthday, their energy needs are three times that of an adult in relation to their size. These foods also provide some nutrients and fibre. Offer your baby a portion with each meal and at some snack-times too. Breads and cereals containing gluten should be introduced after 6 months.
Fruit and Vegetables
These foods contain a whole range of vitamins, minerals and fibre which are important for your baby’s development. Ideally, you should give a wide variety of fruit and vegetables from a very early age and include these in every meal and/or snack. The more colourful the plate, the better chance your baby will be getting a wide variety of nutrients. Choose fresh, frozen, tinned and dried fruit and vegetable options. All are suitable for you and your baby.
Milk, Cheese and Yogurt
These foods are rich in calcium for strong teeth and bones. They also provide protein, energy and some vitamins and minerals. Breastmilk or infant/follow on milk formulas are the only suitable main milk drinks in your baby’s first year. Cows’ milk, (whole, semi or skimmed) is not recommended in baby’s first year as it does not provide the right balance of nutrients. Other dairy products, like cheese and yogurt can be introduced during the weaning stages and onwards. When introducing these dairy foods, choose full fat options as babies still need more fat than adults do for their size. Fat will provide lots of calories your baby needs to grow and develop well. From 1 year onwards, your toddler will need to have 3 portions of dairy foods in their diet every day.
Meat, fish and alternatives
i.e. meat, fish, eggs, nuts and pulses such as lentils, kidney beans and chickpeas. These are a valuable source of protein, iron, zinc, B group vitamins and omega-3 fats.
Iron is a very important nutrient as it is important for brain development. As soon as these foods are introduced during the weaning process, they should be offered once every day, increasing to two portions during the toddler years. If you choose a vegetarian diet for your baby, be careful to ensure that they are getting appropriate amounts of these key nutrients in their diet.
Vitamin D: It is recommended that all babies, from birth to 12 months, whether breastfed or formula fed, be given a daily supplement of 5 μg (200 IU) vitamin D. This should be provided by a supplement containing vitamin D exclusively. (Health Services Executive, May 2010)
Taste preferences are formed during the first year of life. Introducing babies to a variety of tastes at this early stage is therefore important for shaping taste preferences and healthy eating habits for life. The introduction of a wide variety of tastes and textures during the weaning time also helps to reduce any refusal of new foods during the toddler years and beyond.
As no single food provides a complete range of all the nutrients that are required in the amounts needed by babies, it is important to include a variety of foods in the weaning diet, representing foods from all of the following main food groups. It is also important to give the right foods, containing the right balance of energy and nutrients for baby to grow & develop, while avoiding an excess of anything that could cause harm.
How nutritious are these common foods that babies / toddlers eat?
Most biscuits are high in saturated fat and sugar. Limit the intake of biscuits and confectionary in your baby’s diet. Use only occasionally.
Swap for: Unsalted rice cakes
Although fruit juice is a good source of vitamin C, milk and water* are the most tooth friendly drinks in the first year and beyond. (*cooled, previously boiled water <12 months). If giving fruit juice, ensure it is pure and well diluted, 1 part juice to 4-5 parts water and given only at mealtimes.
Swap for: Water*
Your baby’s breakfast is a really important meal in the day, with cereals providing not only calories but key vitamins, minerals and fibre for your developing baby and toddler. Choose fortified cereals that have been specifically developed for babies and toddlers. Alternate appropriate breakfast cereals regularly to ensure variety in the breakfast diet. Add suitable mixed fruit to create further variety.
Chocolate is high in saturated fat and sugar. Limit their intake of chocolate products. Use only occasionally.
Swap: Seedless grapes
Avoid giving crisps to your baby. They have no nutritional value and offer only empty calories. They are very high in salt, saturated fat and flavourings.
Swap: Wholegrain toast fingers with banana
Limit the amount of butter you use on bread etc. Spread it very thinly. Limit its use in cooking.
Swap: Olive oil in cooking
Fish is good for babies as it is rich in protein and omega 3. However, the batter used as a coating for the fish is high in saturated fat and salt.
Swap: Cod fillets with homemade breadcrumbs (i.e. goujon), grilled or fried in olive oil
|Sugar Sweetened Drinks|
Sugar Sweetened Drinks
Sugar sweetened drinks or fizzy drinks are not suitable for babies and toddlers. They are high in sugar which will promote tooth decay and artificial ingredients which are not suitable at this stage. They provide no nutritional value.
Swap for: water.
Limit the fast food chips in your baby’s diet. They are very high in salt and saturated fat.
Swap: Potato slices, grilled or fried in olive oil/Boiled potato slices
Sausages are high in saturated fat and salt.
Swap: Small pieces of mackerel fillet (ensure you flake the fish to remove any bones) – good source of protein and omega 3.
Yoghurts are a great source of calcium. Make sure to give whole fat natural yoghurt to your baby. Check labels to ensure that they contain a low level of sugars. Yoghurts are important dairy foods to include in your baby and toddler's diet. They are important for teeth and bone development.
No swap! Add suitable mixed fruits to create more variety.
C&G jars make a great contribution to the diet of babies and toddlers. They contain a wide variety of different meals, tailored to meet the growing needs of babies at each key developmental stages.
Breadsticks in the diet can contribute towards a healthy snack. Serve with a matchbox size of cheddar cheese.
Digestive biscuits are very high in saturated fat and sugar. Limit the intake of these biscuits and cakes made from digestive biscuits in your baby’s diet. Use only occasionally.
Swap for: Unsalted rice cakes
Cheese is a great source of protein and calcium. Calcium is important for healthy bones and teeth. Make sure to give whole fat cheddar cheese (pasteurised). Cheese is a very important dairy food to include in your baby and toddler's diet.