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A Healthy Diet for the First 1,000 Days of a Child’s Life

From the beginning of pregnancy until age 2 – the first 1,000 day of a child’s life are critical to the development of the embryo

Congratulations! The family has recently expanded. The first 1,000 days continues after the pregnancy, up to the first two years of your baby’s life. Note that most of the energy generated from food at this age is directed to the normal development of systems in the body and especially to the brain. By age 3, a toddler's brain is about 85% developed in comparison to an adult brain. The link between diet and normal physical, cognitive, and social development has been explored and proven, and if we as parents ensure our children are getting a healthy diet from infancy, we will also help them reduce the risks of disease in future stages of life.

Principles of a healthy diet from birth to 6 months

The most recommended diet from birth to six months is breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is the most natural and well-adapted nutrition for a baby's needs. Breast milk usually provides all the nutritional needs of a growing baby. A baby requires physical contact, warmth and affection received through breastfeeding which further establishes the emotional bond between mother and child. In addition, a number of studies has shown the benefits of breastfeeding to both mother and baby. Remember that breastfeeding is a choice to be made by the mother; her spouse and relatives can support the decision. If the baby is not breastfeeding or only breastfeeding, it is recommended to give the baby iron-enriched infant formula.

Important: there is no need to give the baby more water when breastfeeding or feeding infant formula.

Other foods can be introduced gradually from the age of six months.

Principles of a healthy diet from 7 months to 12 months

During this period, it is recommended to continue with breast milk (whether breastfeeding or with expressed milk) and foods from the family menu should be introduced. It is recommended to build the family menu on the basis of the new government dietary guidelines and nutritional rainbow. It is important to choose, as first foods, iron-rich foods such as beef, turkey and legumes. It is recommended to incorporate fish rich with omega 3 and 6 acids, taking care to remove small bones or grind the fish. Round foods such as grapes oshould be sliced lengthwise and cut into small pieces to avoid the risk of asphyxia. Eggs and unsweetened dairy products (5% cheese, yogurt, but not fluid milk products) can be combined in small quantities starting from the age of six months and it is recommended to have the baby exposed to wheat products before the age of 7 months. Towards the age of 12 months, it is recommended that two or three meals a day be from the family menu in addition to breast milk or infant formula.

At six months, with the transition to complementary foods, room temperature water can be added to the diet after it has been boiled. Water should always be boiled up to the age of 6 months.

Principles of a healthy nutrition from the age of 12 months

  • At 12 months the baby can eat honey and pasteurized 3% fluid milk.
  • 1% milk and low fat milk products are not recommended before 24 months.
It is advisable to avoid sugar-sweetened beverages, juices, chocolate–flavored milk, sweetened teas and carbonated beverages that contain large amounts of sugar that harm the teeth and cause tooth decay.


Important to know

  • It’s never too early to start with healthy dietary habits: it is advisable for babies to join family meals around the table.
  • It is important to use salt or soup powders as little as possible and avoid overusing sodium-rich foods such as savory (salty) snacks.
  • It is important to take vitamins and nutritional supplements according to the recommendations of pediatricians and be aware of the safety hazards involved in providing different foods to toddlers.

Further reading

Feeding the baby in the first year, Ministry of Health website
Newsletter for parents, guide to supplemental foods, Ministry of Health website (Hebrew)