Food and drink you shouldn’t give babies and younger children

After you’ve weaned your baby, it’s important to give them a healthy diet that contains a range of foods and nutrients. But there are some foods that it’s best to avoid until they’re older. Here are some examples of these foods and advice on managing other food-related risks.

Dairy products

Dairy products are a great source of protein and calcium. They also play an important role in developing healthy bones. But you’ll need to tailor these to your child’s development.

  • Only breast milk and formula milk are suitable for babies under one. Cow’s milk isn’t a suitable drink until after this age, but you can use it in cooking after they’re six months old.
  • Hold off on goat and sheep’s milk for under-ones. They don’t contain the right balance of nutrients for growth and development. Also, if your child is not able to tolerate cow’s milk, they are at high risk of having an allergic reaction to other animal milks.
  • Wait until your child is two before giving them semi-skimmed milk, and wait until they’re five to give them skimmed milk.
  • If you’re looking to substitute cow’s milk with dairy-free alternatives, such as oat or almond milk, wait until your child is two. Although fortified versions meet calcium requirements, most of them are too low in fat. But you can give them to your child occasionally from one year onwards. Rice drinks aren’t suitable for children under five because of the levels of arsenic they contain.

Be aware of added sugar

Avoiding sugary snacks and drinks will help prevent tooth decay. This will also prevent them from having a sweet tooth once they get older. Check out my Sugar swaps for kids article for tips on reducing your child’s sugar intake.

Limit salt in food

There’s plenty of hidden salt in processed foods these days. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of checking food labels, and out of the habit of adding salt to your food.

Try flavouring your food with alternatives to salt, such as herbs and spices. Stock cubes are often high in salt so avoid adding these to your baby’s food.

Foods intended for adults, eg low-fat, low-sugar or artificially sweetened foods, are not suitable for children, as they need more fat and less fibre than adults.

Choose the right types of fish

Fish like shark, swordfish or marlin can contain mercury, which can affect your child’s nervous system. So, it’s best not to give these types of fish to babies, toddlers and children up until the age of 16.

Younger children can eat other types of fish, such as oily fish like salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines. These contain long chain omega 3s, essential fatty acids that will play a role in their brain development.

Stay clear of fizzy drinks

These contain whopping amounts of sugar!  It’s best to avoid them as regularly consuming this amount of sugar can lead to tooth decay and obesity.

Encourage your infant to drink water as this really is the best choice. Milk is a great alternative too.

Maya Aboukhater   Senior Specialist Dietitian at Bupa Cromwell Hospital

For more information, visit