Why Does My Baby Need Carbohydrates?

carbohydrates macronutrients Jul 30, 2020

Today we look at the second in our series exploring macro and micro-nutrients, all of which are important as you begin weaning your plant-based baby. What are carbohydrates, the different types, why carbs for babies are important and much more below.

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. There are three types of carbohydrates:


1. Starches

Starchy carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for your baby’s body however there are two types:

Unrefined starches which include foods such as wholegrain breads, cereals and beans etc. These are broken down slowly releasing energy over a longer period of time. They are also a good source of fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Refined starches are simpler to break down and include things such as white bread, pasta, white flours etc. These refined starches provide a quicker energy rush and don’t keep you or baby as full as unrefined starches.


2. Sugar

Natural sugars found in some vegetables and fruit contain dietary fibre. The fibre in whole foods such as these ensures that the sugar is absorbed at a gradual rate.

Free sugars including table sugar, maple syrup, agave nectar, golden syrup as well as fruit juices and smoothies. These provide empty calories and encourage a sweet tooth. Infants do not have the ability to digest fruit juices during infancy and it can result in diarrhoea. Sugars also contribute to tooth decay and an increased likelihood of obesity in later childhood.


3. Fibre

Fibre is found in the cell walls of foods that come from plants such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrain bread, wholewheat pasta, beans and lentils. Fibre fills small stomachs up quickly resulting in smaller portions being consumed, reducing the overall calorie intake. Creating a balance between white varieties of carbs and wholegrain options is beneficial at this age, remembering that infants require high energy food to sustain their daily energy usage.


Carbs for baby - how much does my baby actually need?

Your weaning infant will require approximately 40% of their total daily energy intake from carbohydrates to provide them with the energy they need to thrive. This will increase to around 55% by the age of two. To ensure your baby is eating enough carbohydrates offer one or two tastes at each main meal or snacks of starchy carbohydrate. Some examples are:

  • Pasta and home-made garlic bread
  • Curry with potatoes and brown rice
  • Porridge and seeded toast
  • Lasagne with sweet potato wedges
  • Sandwich with bean salad
  • Baked potato (skin on) with beans


What carbohydrates should my baby be eating?

Offering wholegrain and higher fibre varieties of starchy carbohydrates will keep your baby fuller for longer due to the higher fibre content. However, variety is the key when thinking about carbs for your baby. Offer some white starchy carbohydrates too at this age, as high fibre foods will make your infant feel full quicker, potentially interfering with their appetite to eat a selection of the food served on their plate. As a result, this could limit the eating of other nutrients served as part of their meal. This may include for example wholegrain bread for toast at breakfast, white crackers for a snack, jacket potato with it’s skin on for lunch and brown rice for part of the evening meal.

Avoid sugar altogether especially refined sugars in an infant’s diet, there are limited benefits to offering them and they are often considered empty calories as they provide calories with limited nutritional benefits. Your baby can be considered a blank canvas at 6 months when complementary feeding begins. They do not know about high sugar confectionary, fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits etc. These are learnt behaviours. To fuel your baby as best you can there is no evidence to suggest they require these types of carbohydrates. Foods high in added refined sugars provide a fast spike in energy which will not sustain your baby’s hunger for long followed by a sudden crash of energy and irritable behaviour as a result.

These carrot cake bites are a great source of carbohydrates and suitable for baby-led weaning. Check out our Instagram page for the full recipe.


Your baby needs almost half of their food intake from starchy sources of carbohydrates as these provide the best source of energy for your baby to grow and develop. Offering something from this food group at each main meal and/or snacks will ensure your baby has enough energy to remain busy through the day (and night) and avoid highly processed sugary carbohydrates.


If you haven't already downloaded our free "Protein and My Baby" fact sheet, click HERE and it will be in your inbox before you know it!