Nutrition Tips for Babies & toddlers

Expert tips, guidelines, and videos

Starting Solids: nutrition tips for babies & toddlers

Breastmilk or formula is the primary source of calories and nutrients during baby's first year, with solid foods being complementary; this ratio gradually shifts over months 6-12. At 12 months you can transition to whole cow's milk (ask your pediatrician about alternatives) served in a cup as a complement to solid foods. Read on for nutrition-related guidelines that are particularly relevant for babies' and toddlers' developing bodies and brains, but otherwise aim to serve meals rich in minimally processed vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and proteins — the same aspirations we have for any age!


prioritize a variety of foods when starting solids with your baby

Why? Helps ensure broad nutrient intake, avoid pickiness later, and develop oral-motor skills. Plus it's more fun and delicious.

Food examples: Limitless! Aim for a variety of colors, flavors, and textures throughout the early years.

prioritize iron rich foods when introducing solids to your baby

Why? Helps blood carry oxygen around body, which is critical for brain & muscle development. Babies have enough iron in their bodies for their first ~6 months, but start needing additional iron sources as this diminishes.

Food examples: Red meat, poultry, tofu, seafood, beans, lentils, green leafy veggies, fortified cereals and oatmeal.

prioritize foods rich in vitamin c when introducing solids to your baby
Vitamin C

Why? Helps body absorb iron. Especially critical for absorbing iron from plant sources. Vitamin C also plays an important role in immune health and as an antioxidant.

Food examples: Citrus fruits, red bell peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, kiwi, strawberries, cruciferous vegetables.

prioritize foods rich in healthy fats when introducing solids to your baby
Healthy fats

Why? Useful for boosting calories (especially for babies having a hard time with solids and struggling to stay on their growth curve) and important for brain and body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K).

Food examples: Nuts, avocado, oils (olive, coconut), oily fish. For animal products, serve full-fat versions & non-lean cuts.


Salt to avoid preference for overly salty foods

Sugar to avoid preference for overly sweet foods and to minimize empty calories (babies have high nutrient needs but consume small amounts of food)

Avoid until > 1 year

Honey due to risk of botulism, illness from toxin sometimes found in honey

Juice to avoid excess sugar

High-mercury fish such as tilefish, shark, swordfish, marlin, bigeye and bluefin tuna


American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP); Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE); Johns Hopkins Medicine; Center for Disease Control (CDC); Nemours KidsHealth

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