Neven’s Maguire’s nutritious food for your children

There’s no reason your little ones can’t develop diverse and broad taste buds


If you’re looking for inspiration about when, how and what to feed your baby, it’s here. Neven Maguire’s compendium of 200 recipes for babies and toddlers is not short of creative ideas and practical tips. It’s beautifully produced, although the recipes are not indexed so you will need some sticky page finders to tag your favourite recipes. Neven and his wife Amelda’s insights and advice are scattered through the sections and give a sense of just how well fed their three-year-old twins, Connor and Lucia, must be. Exposing babies and children to fresh seasonal foods conditions them for later life. Nutrition in the early days shapes our health in latter years. For plenty more exposure to sound nutrition principles and yummy recipes, take a leaf out of Neven’s Complete Baby and Toddler Cookbook.

Stage 1 (from six months) includes runny single first purees such as butternut squash with cinnamon and some interesting combo-veg recipes such as watercress, potato and pea puree

Stage 2 (six to nine months) includes mashed foods such as red lentils and sweet potatoes

Stage 3 (nine to 12 months) includes more roughly chopped foods and hard finger foods such as Fish Footballs with Minty Yoghurt Dip. As Neven says, he offers a wide selection of meal solutions in the book but you will probably make the recipes that your baby enjoys over and over again.

The toddlers section (one to three years) includes recipes such as tuna pasta salad with baby spinach, and many other adventurous recipes.

Family Celebrations includes desserts that are almost all fruit based. The elderflower and fruit jellies are apparently a big hit. Party treats such as mini eggy frittatas served in bun cases look delicious, as do the tortilla wheels of mild goats’ cheese and Parma ham.

Dietary advice

Breastmilk is best for babies, or an appropriate formula milk if the baby is not breastfed. Soya-based infant formula is usually not recommended for babies under six months.

Certain drinks are not suitable for children under 12 months: Cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, rice milk Tea or coffee, even decaffeinated Sugary drinks, fizzy drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks Dilutable squash

The following foods are not recommended for babies under one year:

Honey, sugar Bran or rusks in the milk bottle Unpasteurised food such as certain cheese Liver, processed cured meats such as sausages, salami, bacon, ham Sugary, fatty foods such as crisps, chocolate, cakes, biscuits, sweets Whole or chopped nuts: choking is a possibility

Tip for weaning

When introducing gluten, the recommended window is between 17 weeks and 30 weeks. If you introduce gluten before 17 weeks or after 30 weeks , your baby could have an increased risk of developing coeliac disease or type 1 diabetes later in life.

If your baby is pre-term (born earlier than 37 weeks) it is advised to introduce foods between five and eight months of their actual date of birth. Check with your public health nurse for more information.

A handy booklet Feeding your Baby, Introducing Family Meals is available from

Table talk with Neven Maguire


What is the twins’ typical day, foodwise?

For breakfast Connor and Lucia eat porridge or Weetabix every morning, and they love fresh orange juice. Lunch is usually a soup or fishcakes, and for dinner they’d have a chicken and mushroom casserole or hake or salmon with broccoli and potatoes.

Twins’ favourite fruit and veg?

We are lucky that they like to eat most fruits – strawberries, raspberries, oranges, apples. In the veg department they like carrots, peas, sweetcorn and broccoli.

Twins’ favourite protein?

Pork, fish, beef, chickpeas. They love all types of fish, especially calamari. Chicken is another favourite. My twins absolutely loved my Fish Footballs because they could pick them up and eat them by themselves. It’s a great way to get kids eating more fish.

Twins’ favourite carb?

Spaghetti pasta is a favourite. They eat all the usual carbs – potatoes, rice, noodles and bread – but also love quinoa.

Twins’ favourite dairy food?

They love milk, yogurts and some mild cheeses.

Do they eat herbs?

We put herbs into meals, and they eat them. We have a greenhouse at home that we all enjoy especially Connor and Lucia who have lots of fun picking the herbs and veg. They also love to eat the strawberries from the greenhouse.

What do they dislike?

They are not huge fans of tomatoes or onions. They don’t really dislike much, yet.

It was challenging getting the twins to eat green vegetables. I introduced them to broccoli once they were eating a good variety of root vegetables and started out by offering it in small amounts, one cube of broccoli to two or three cubes of sweet potato or carrot. Taking this approach means they are less likely to reject the broccoli.

Twins’ favourite recipes from the book?

Veg and barley soup, or sea bass.

Any funny food habits?

The twins call mayonnaise “white ketchup”.

Your most important learning about food and nutrition for children?

We’ve learnt so much through my work with First 1,000 Days. Getting the right nutrition for babies and toddlers can ensure a lifetime of good health, reduce the risk of obesity and heart disease and even improve skills such as reading and writing.

Your thoughts on sugary foods and treats?

Once a week the twins have a picnic treat. Amelda makes fresh juices that she freezes and they have this as a treat. They are so simple. You can mix mangoes and limes, blackberries and oranges or watermelon and raspberries and simply freeze them in moulds for a delicious treat that is free from any added sugars or preservatives. They are also great with some Greek yogurt added in for a creamier texture.

Your house rules?

We always eat together as a family; it is our quality time when the TV is off and we sit around the table

. Also, the secret for us from day one has been that Connor and Lucia have always eaten what we are eating. We have never cooked separate meals for them and us. Everything can be adapted to suit all the family. Every day is different and seeing Connor and Lucia’s tastebuds develop is very important to both of us. The greatest gift we can give our children is for them to enjoy food and eat well.


Serves two, plus a toddler

2 x 200g sea bass fillets, skinned

2 tbsp olive oil

freshly ground black pepper juice and finely grated rind of 1 small lemon

100g cherry tomatoes

handful of fresh basil

75g cooked peeled prawns

Serve with steamed fragrant brown rice steamed broccoli florets

This is an all-time favourite in the Maguire household. The twins love it. It’s packed full of flavour and literally takes about 10 minutes to put on the table.

Preheat the grill to medium. Arrange the sea bass fillets on a foil-lined grill rack, presentation side up. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with pepper, then cook for 8-10 minutes, until cooked through and tender. The length of time they take will depend on the thickness of the fillets. Once they are cooked, sprinkle with a little of the lemon juice.

Meanwhile, heat a heavy-based frying pan with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over a medium heat. Add the cherry tomatoes and sauté for a couple of minutes, until the skins are just beginning to split but they are still holding their shape. Sprinkle over the lemon rind add a little of the lemon juice.

Scatter in the basil and prawns and continue to saute until just heated through. Take about 50g off one of the sea bass fillets for your child, then flake it. Arrange the sea bass on plates with the sautéed cherry tomatoes and prawns. Add the steamed fragrant rice and broccoli to serve.


Paula Mee is a member of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute and works in Medfit.; @paula_mee

Neven Maguire’s Complete Baby and Toddler Cookbook is published by Gill & Macmillan (€18.99)

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