Your Guide to Protein: Introducing Your Baby to Proteins & Carbs Day 3: A Flavorful Burst of Health

Your Guide to Protein: Introducing Your Baby to Proteins & Carbs

Protein is one of the three macronutrients, the other two being fat and carbohydrates.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Certain amino acids are not made by the body naturally. Introducing protein-rich foods can help babies get the nutrients they need.

Why Is Protein Essential for Your Baby?

1) Protein is essential for your baby’s growth and development.

2) It helps build and repair tissues, including muscles, organs, and bones.

3) It plays a role in the production of enzymes and hormones.

4) It can help regulate blood sugar levels and contribute to a healthy immune system.

TIP: At this age, babies require more fat than protein, because breast milk and infant formula are already good sources of protein.

You can start giving protein-rich foods from 6 months onwards. Start these foods early on, as a lot of these foods are rich in iron as well. Delaying the introduction of protein-rich foods may deprive babies of essential nutrients like iron and protein.

Types of Proteins

Protein from animal sources

Protein from plant sources

Contains all nine essential amino acids in consistent amounts.

May lack some of the essential amino acids.

Majority of complete proteins are from animal-based foods

beans, nuts, seeds, spinach, and cauliflower.

Sources: dairy, eggs, fish, and meat. Also found in quinoa and soy

Sources: beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, and seeds


TIP: Combine plant-based protein sources to create a complete protein. E.g. Combine rice and beans or peanut butter on whole grain bread.


However, by combining different plant-based protein sources, it is possible to create a complete protein. For example, combining rice and beans or peanut butter on whole grain bread can provide all of the essential amino acids.

Top Food Sources of Protein

Good-quality protein is found in:

Animal protein

Dairy protein

Plant protein

Eggs (preferably organic)

Milk and milk products - curd, paneer, cheese, etc.

Pulses, whole grains, and legumes

Mutton, chicken, fish, (preferably organic)

Firm tofu

Nuts and seeds


Many sources of high-quality protein also provide nutrients like vitamin E, B, zinc, iron, and magnesium.

Meet Your Baby’s Protein Goals: Our Top 3 Tips

1. Include one protein-rich food in every meal. For e.g., egg for breakfast; dal/lentils and curd or yogurt for lunch; some kind of meat for dinner.

2. Add bone broth or dal water to cook the vegetables or make curries or gravies, which will add protein to the dish.

3. Power up protein during snack time. Add cheese; spread some nut butter, yogurt, or hummus; or simply offer yogurt or curd with nut butters added into it.

Protein-Rich Finger Foods Your Baby Will Enjoy

  • Well-cooked pulses, lentils, and legumes. Mash them and make dal, sambhar, kadhi, or hummus
  • Eggs: Use both yolks and whites and ensure they’re well cooked (yolk should not be runny)
  • Boiled chicken breast or thigh: Make sure it is slow-cooked, tender, and shredded
  • Low-mercury fish: Make sure it’s deboned, cooked, and shredded so it’s flaky
  • Medium firm cheese: Serve it shredded (cheddar, cottage cheese, mozzarella, or tofu)
  • Meat: Meatballs or ground meat patties.
  • Nut butters & soft cheese: Peanut or almond butter; ricotta cheese or cream cheese
  • Now that we’ve looked at Fat & Protein, let’s move to the third macro nutrient: Carbs or carbohydrates.

    Carbs are the energy that fuels our bodies, and babies need plenty of energy! 

    Often, the word “carbohydrates” brings up visuals of pasta, potatoes, and rice. In addition to these, there are other foods that contain “more healthy” carbs, like legumes, grains, and even fruit and vegetables. On the other hand, we want to avoid processed carbs with very less nutritional value like biscuits and cakes.

    Why Does Your Baby Need Carbs?

  • It’s the main source of energy for the body.
  • Needed for brain development and function; glucose derived from carbs is the primary fuel for the brain.
  • Source of fiber, which is needed for good digestive health and preventing constipation.
  • Help support a healthy immune system.
  • Can help regulate blood sugar levels, preventing spikes and crashes that can affect a baby's mood and behavior.
  • Whole grain cabs can provide important vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, and B vitamins, which are important for a baby's growth and development.

    DID YOU KNOW: “Whole/unrefined” carbs are minimally processed; they contain the fiber found naturally in the food. “Refined” carbs have been processed a lot further; their natural fiber has been removed, so it’s without essential nutrients. Avoid giving babies food with refined carbs like maida, corn flour. Include whole carbs like whole grains, cereals, millets.


    How Much Carbs Does Your Baby Need?

    Approximately 40% of your baby’s total daily energy intake should come from carbohydrates to provide them with the energy they need to grow well. This requirement will increase to around 55% by the time your baby turns 2.

    To ensure your baby is eating enough carbs, offer one or two tastes at each main meal or snacks. Refer to the meal plans and recipe ideas below for inspiration!

    Top Food Sources of Carbs

    Whole grains and cereal


    Starchy veggies

    Legumes and lentils


    Rice, whole wheat, oats, rice flakes, quinoa, vermicelli, semolina, sabudana, millets, pasta

    Apple, banana, jackfruit, fig, raisins, plums, apricots, pineapple, pear, dates

    Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, beetroots, yam, raw banana, pumpkin, corn, arbi, tapioca, cauliflower, spinach, broccoli, zucchini

    Rajma, kabuli chana (chickpeas), dals (lentils)

    Whole milk, curd or yogurt, cottage cheese


    Carb-Rich Snack Ideas

  • Powdered raw banana porridge with ghee
  • Aloo methi sabji with chapati/roti/rice
  • Baked or steamed sweet potato wedges with curd/yogurt as a snack
  • Whole grain bread sandwich dipped in nut butter spread
  • Ragi/raw banana porridge with full fat milk/yogurt/curd and or ghee/coconut oil Add mashed banana or well-ground seeds to add protein. Add good fats and iron like raisins/apricots.
  • Pancakes can be served. Ensure it’s made with eggs, oil or ghee, veggies, and flour like whole wheat or ragi. Top them with berries or oranges or curd/yogurt.
  • To ensure a balanced plate of food for your baby when your meals are mostly Indian style, remember these two tips:

    Tip 1: If khichdi is on your family meal menu, you’re all set. Rice adds the carbs, dal adds protein, and ghee adds good fats. But make sure you add veggies like carrots, beetroot, and tomatoes to add iron, fiber, and vitamin C to create a well-balanced meal!


    Tip 2: If your menu consists of rice or roti (as is normal in most Indian homes), then you’re set on the carbs front! Add slow cooked, tender, shredded or ground chicken or well-cooked fish for their protein intake (if you’re vegetarian, use shredded paneer or peas, beans, or lentils instead). Add veggies like tomatoes or pumpkin for fiber and vitamin C, and of course coconut oil or ghee or coconut cream for good fats.

    If you feel overwhelmed by this information (perhaps some déjà vu from your school Science lesson?!), switch off your device and put it away. Come back to this article when you feel like it.

    Next week, we’ll continue this healthy journey of key nutrients with Vitamins and Calcium.