Moving on to family meals

Ready to make the switch from baby food to proper meals? Here's how

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By the age of one, most children can eat the same healthy foods as the rest of the family. Some dishes will need altering slightly to make them more baby and toddler-friendly, but plainer meals can be enjoyed by all.

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What to feed your baby

Like adults, babies and toddlers should eat a wide range of fruit and vegetables to make sure they’re getting plenty of vitamins and minerals. They also need lots of energy-giving carbs. However, their dietary requirements do differ in some areas. While we adults benefit from a low-fat, high fibre diet, babies and young children need more fat but less fibre, which tends to fill them up and can stop them absorbing enough iron and calcium.

Salt and sugar are two other baddies to avoid, so make sure you cut right back on the amount you add to family meals. You can always add extra to your own dishes once they’re served up on the plate. Some toddlers enjoy spicy flavours, but it’s best to introduce them gradually with foods that you know suit your child. That way, if he does suffer from an upset tummy, you’ll be able to pinpoint the culprit.

Once your child has reached the one-year milestone you can introduce him to family meals that include foods that were previously off-limits. This includes honey, fish, finely chopped nuts, nut oils and nut butters (as long as there are no family history of allergies). Avoid dishes containing whole nuts though, as these still pose a choking risk for a toddler.

Serving suggestions

When serving up family meals, consider whether any items need mashing or cutting into suitable bite-sized pieces for your tot. If you’re having spaghetti Bolognese, chop your toddler’s pasta up so it’s easier to manage. If you’re tucking into a fish pie, break the fish into smaller chunks which can be mixed in with the mashed potato. If you’re eating garlic bread with your meal, offer your child triangles of buttered toast instead. Remember too that despite your toddler’s high energy levels, he still has a relatively small tummy, so serve up appropriate portion sizes.

While it can be hard to dish up dinners that appeal to everyone, try to avoid falling into the trap of cooking separate meals for each family member, or you’ll become a slave to the kitchen. Even if your toddler refuses everything you dish up, continue offering variations on the family’s meal. If you’re cooking something new, try to serve it alongside a food or flavour that you know is a firm favourite with your little one – for example, if you’re cooking a noodle dish, include vegetables that he is happy to eat. This should encourage him to take more of an interest in the rest of the meal.

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Family values

Eating together as a family is beneficial because it provides a great learning experience for your young child. Toddlers will often try new foods if they see other people eating them and if you set a good example, your child will pick up some great table manners. By seeing you eating and enjoying a variety of foods it will increase the pleasure he take from mealtimes and may help to limit any future fussiness.

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