Good Nutrition Starts Early

Photo of smiling dad offering toddler a spoonful of oatmeal

Kids’ early eating experiences can affect how they eat as they get older. That’s why it’s so important to introduce them to healthy foods from the very beginning.

What Foods Should I Introduce to My Child First?

When your child is about 6 months old, you can start introducing him or her to foods and drinks other than breast milk and infant formula. For most children, you don’t need to introduce foods in a specific order.

Photo of baby girl in high chair trying broccoli and sweet potatoes for the first time
Try making a rainbow of different colored foods on your child’s plate.

By the time your child is 7 or 8 months old, he or she can eat a variety of foods from different food groups. Your child needs a variety of vitamins and minerals to grow healthy and strong. Try making a rainbow of different colored foods on your child’s plate. Here are a few examples:

  • Fruits: bananas, strawberries, pears, oranges, melons, or avocados
  • Vegetables: cooked spinach, carrots, peas, sweet potatoes, or beets
  • Whole grains: whole grain breads, crackers, or pastas
  • Meats: soft, small pieces of beef, lamb, chicken, fish, or turkey
  • Dairy: yogurts or cheeses (pasteurized only)

Drinks Matter, Too!

When your child is between 6 and 12 months old, you can offer:

  • Water (4 to 6 ounces per day)
  • Breast milk (if you are still breastfeeding) or infant formula

Once your child is 12 months old, you can begin offering fortified cow’s milk.

Foods to Avoid

There are certain foods and drinks you should avoid giving your child.

If your child is under 12 months, avoid foods and drinks such as:

  • Honey. It could cause a serious type of food poisoning called botulism in children under 12 months.
  • Unpasteurized drinks or foods. These items may put your child at risk for E. coli, a harmful bacteria that can cause severe diarrhea. Common unpasteurized foods include raw milk, juice, yogurt, or cheeses.
  • Fortified cow’s milk. It may put your young child under 12 months old at risk for intestinal bleeding.
  • Fruit juice and other sugary drinks. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children not drink 100% juice or juice drinks with added sweeteners before they are 12 months old.

Photo of mom, dad, and young son eating a healthy breakfast together
Be their role model! Eating a healthy diet sets a good example for your children.

Be Their Role Model

Once your child is 12 months old or older, they’ll be eating more of the foods that you eat. Eating a healthy diet sets a good example for your children.

It’s important for children and adults alike to limit foods that are high in sodium and added sugars.

Eating a healthy diet can help children get the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. For adults, a healthy diet can help protect against a number of serious and costly chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and obesity.

A healthy diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat or fat-free dairy. The USDA’s ChooseMyPlateExternal can help you choose the healthy foods and drinks that work for your family.