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Fun not Fuss with Food: Food textures

Category: Child Health

Topic: Diet and Eating

Early introduction to a variety of food textures is important for the development of your child’s mouth movements and speech, and encourages your child to accept different textures later in childhood. Delaying your child’s progression through a variety of textures and tastes can cause fussy eating habits that may continue throughout life.

Texture transition

Q: What does texture transition mean?
A: This is the order in which you introduce new food textures to your child.

At around 6 months, your baby needs to start eating foods other than breastmilk or formula. The order of when foods are introduced is related to when they are nutritionally needed and when your baby’s body has developed enough to handle them. Ideally small amounts of pureed or mashed foods are introduced to a baby at around 6 months of age. Start with about half a teaspoon after a breast or formula feed. Progress through minced, chopped and finger food textures as your baby masters each texture. By about 12 months of age, most children will be eating the same foods as the rest of the family.

Life beyond pureed food

Mashed foods

Food texture: These are soft foods that are mashed.

Examples: regular oatmeal, semolina, mashed banana or other very ripe fruit, mashed avocado, mashed vegetables, mashed tofu.

Minced or chopped foods

Food texture: These are foods that have been roughly mashed or crumbled. There may be a combination of tastes and different sized lumps. These lumps are obvious and prominent.

Examples: minced or finely chopped meat, chicken or egg, mashed or diced vegetables, chopped soft raw fruit such as melon and banana, yoghurt with soft lumps, bread soaked in casserole juices, soft scrambled eggs/soft-boiled eggs.

Finger foods

Food texture: These are foods that can be picked up and require some chewing. These foods break down easily to small pieces in the mouth when chewing.

Examples: cooked pasta shapes, squares of soft cheese, soft cooked green beans, strips of well-cooked meat and chicken, tuna in water, chopped soft fruit (e.g. banana or strawberry), sticks of cooked vegetables (e.g. pumpkin, potato). Most babies can manage these from 8 months of age.

Family foods

Food texture: These are foods that the family are eating. They may contain more than 1 consistency. Most children will be managing family foods by 12 months of age. If needed, cut your young child’s food into smaller pieces.

Examples: casserole (meat and sauce), roast meat and vegetables, pasta or stir fry, dry cereal with milk, vegetable or noodle soup, jelly and fruit, fruit yoghurt, cooked vegetables or salad, sandwiches.

My child won't eat lumpy foods! Is this normal?

Refusal to eat lumpy foods, spitting out lumps of food or gagging on lumpy foods is a normal part of your child's development. Try not to overreact, as this may encourage your child to continue with this behaviour. Always sit with your child when eating.

Q: What is gagging?

A: Gagging stops your child from choking. It may sound frightening; however, gagging is a protective action.

Some parents may delay lumps because they are worried that ‘gagging’ is choking. This means the child will not learn to chew and may have problems with jaw, teeth and speech development. If a child is not progressing through food textures, this may be due to:

  • previous difficulty with lumpy food or chewy food causing the child to not want to try again
  • difficulty breaking down lumpy or chewy food
  • difficulty using their tongue to move lumps in the mouth.

If your child is having difficulty progressing through textures, talk to your child health nurse. You may be referred to a dietitian or speech/language specialist for help.

Transitioning from smooth foods to lumpy foods

  • Begin with food that your child likes and will eat.
  • Try thickening the food gradually rather than adding a few lumps.
  • Slowly increase the size of the lumps while decreasing the amount of pureed food.
  • Praise your baby when he or she eats mouthfuls of lumpy foods.
  • Offer a variety of separate tastes when introducing lumpy solids. Your child may prefer one taste to another.
  • If your child has difficulty when introduced to dry foods or foods with lumps, try using a binder food. Foods such as apple sauce, strained fruits or vegetables are binders. Swap between bites of hard, lumpy foods and spoons of a food that will bind together with the loose pieces. This makes it easier for your child to swallow. As your child's skill in chewing and swallowing improves, he or she will have less need for the binder food.

Chewing tips for kids

It is not uncommon for children to choke or gag on chewy solids, such as pieces of fruit, vegetables and meat. Encourage your child to chew these foods properly and not to swallow them whole. Try these tips to help your child with chewing:

  • After your child can manage lumpy solids, add solid foods that require some chewing. Begin with softer chewy foods (e.g. squares of soft cheddar cheese), then try vegetables and meat.
  • Serve food in bite-size pieces.
  • Praise your child when he or she attempts foods needing chewing.
  • Be a role model; show your child how to take small bites. Move the food to the side of the mouth and chew.
  • As each food is mastered, try a new one.
  • Encourage your child to bite through food. Start with soft foods such as bananas, cooked carrot pieces,  or macaroni. Try progressing to foods like dried fruit or meat.

Food safety

Some tips to prevent choking:

  • Always supervise babies and young children when they eat.
  • Make a rule that eating is to be a sit-down activity. This is to prevent accidents with food or unintentional swallowing of large pieces of food.
  • Try role-modelling sitting and eating. This shows that eating is a sit-down activity for all family members.
  • Avoid small hard foods such as whole nuts, popcorn, corn chips, hard lollies and hard raw fruit or vegetables (e.g. carrot or apple) until the child is 3 years of age.

Related content

Acknowledgement

Information is drawn from:

  • National Health and Medical Research Council 2012, Infant feeding guidelines.
  • Evans Morris, S & Dunn Klein, M 2000, Pre-feeding skills: A comprehensive resource for mealtime development (2nd Edition), Therapy Skill Builders, San Antonia.

This information is also the result of input and effort from many health professionals in Queensland. Their assistance with the content is greatly appreciated.

This information is provided as general information only and should not be relied upon as professional or medical advice. Professional and medical advice should be sought for particular health concerns or events. Best efforts have been used to develop this information, which is considered correct and current in accordance with accepted best practice in Queensland as at the date of production. The State of Queensland (Queensland Health) does not accept liability to any person for the information provided in this fact sheet nor does it warrant that the information will remain correct and current. The State of Queensland (Queensland Health) does not promote, endorse or create any association with any third party by publication or use of any references or terminology in this fact sheet.