Warrawong tots taste-test new rules of baby food

Leena, 21 months, enjoys one of the recipes at Barnardos playgroup at Warrawong. Pictures: ANDY ZAKELI

Leena, 21 months, enjoys one of the recipes at Barnardos playgroup at Warrawong. Pictures: ANDY ZAKELI

Forget months of pumpkin puree and bland rice cereal - a new cookbook gives parents plenty of fresh ideas for their little ones.

The Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District Cookbook for Babies and Toddlers takes the guesswork out of what to feed children, and when, and makes new healthy eating guidelines a bit easier to digest.

ISLHD public health dietitian Julie Parkinson said one of the major changes in the Australian Dietary Guidelines was the speed at which new foods could be introduced to babies after they started solids at six months.

"The previous guidelines recommended waiting at least three days after introducing a certain food but now parents are being encouraged to introduce a variety of foods from the five food groups as soon as they want," she said.

"There's also an emphasis on giving babies iron-rich food from six months.

A recipe from the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District Cookbook for babies and toddlers.

A recipe from the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District Cookbook for babies and toddlers.

"After six months of age, children lose a lot of their iron stores and while there's iron in breast milk or formula, they really need that boost of iron from food."

The new guidelines also recommend a quicker progression from pureed food to finger food for babies.

"Parents should still start with pureed food but should move quickly onto finely mashing food, then work up to lumpy food and quickly on to finger food.

"Every child is different of course but the guidelines recommend that the progression to finger food should only take one to two months after the baby begins solids at six months."

Having more flavours and textures introduced at an earlier age had a variety of benefits according to Ms Parkinson.

Babies were exposed to many different foods which gave them a greater range of nutrients and also reduced fussy eating later on.

The Cookbook for Babies and Toddlers was officially launched on April 1 at Barnardos South Coast Centre in Warrawong, where child and family workers have been trialling the recipes at their playgroups to great success.

Baked bean pie, cheesy rissoles and pumpkin polenta fingers are among the age-appropriate recipes in the cookbook, which are all approved by dietitians.

Information on tips to reduce fussy eating and details on packaging and waste are also included.

"It's a really practical resource for parents and helps engage them in preparing nutritious and tasty meals for their young children," Ms Parkinson said.

"It also gives some handy tips on cooking techniques as well as safe food preparation - a lot of food poisoning actually occurs in the home so when you have small children it's important to revisit what you're doing in the kitchen."

Download the cookbook from here.

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