Preface: I work with babies and children on a daily basis and understand that feeding infants and toddlers can be a struggle. I’m not saying it is not a task in and of itself or trying to make it seem simple.
I wrote this post because I hear every day how “so simple” it is not!! I mean, we all know that babies need breast milk (or formula), but once we start introducing solid foods, how are we supposed to know if baby is getting enough nutrients?
Well I am here to tell you that it is never too early to start introducing your child to the colors of the rainbow. This will encourage variety and they will learn to love healthy foods! I already wrote a post entitled, “How To Prevent a Picky Eater,” if you want to check that out too!
Beginning around 5-6 months of age, babies will start showing signs that they are ready for solid foods; sitting up independently or trying to grab things to put in their mouth. According to Karen Ansel R.D, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association in Long Island, it is best to try solids when the baby is wide awake, usually first thing in the morning or right after a nap. Try to avoid any distractions like the TV or other siblings. While there is no rule about what to introduce first, it is typically easiest to start with baby cereal or a mushy food like bananas or avocados. Slowly get the baby used to this new manner of eating. Once baby learns this new way to eat, try the following suggestions in order to get your baby or toddler to eat as much variety as possible!
Introduce New Foods Rapidly
Although most experts will advise introducing one food every 3 days for allergy purposes, Dr. Alan Green M.D., author of Feeding Baby Green: The Earth Friendly Program for Healthy, Safe Nutrition, suggests introducing a new food every day and mixtures of food as soon as possible. He states that the idea of only giving single foods teaches kids to be picky. Work your way through the colors of the rainbow by combining foods baby loves, with ones they haven’t tried yet! Try all kinds of flavors to get the most nutrients and exposure! Mix apples and blueberries, try beets or figs! Think outside the box!
Keep baby close in the kitchen while preparing foods and at the dinner table. This allows the baby to see you preparing the food and also enjoying what you prepared as a family! Family meal times have demonstrated lots of positive benefits for children as they grow up; better school performance and increased self-confidence!
Set an example. When it comes to babies and children, it is what you DO, not what you SAY, that has the greatest impact. Babies and children are constantly watching and observing YOU, so if YOU are not eating your vegetables, chances are pretty good that your children will follow the same eating habits. Having a baby is the perfect time to start expanding your own horizons and trying foods that you may have grown up thinking you did not like. Try them again!! You might be surprised!
As babies grow and turn in to toddlers, they can go through all kinds of stages where certain colors, tastes, and textures don’t appeal to them. Be patient. Keep encouraging those foods!! It can take up to 15 times before a child will accept a new food. If you can get your child to try something at least 6-10 times, the likelihood of that child coming to enjoy that food increase dramatically! Maybe you could try switching up the way you prepare certain foods; baking, roasting,sautéing, blending, etc.
FISH: excellent source of omega-3′s and protein, all beneficial to baby’s growing noggin’. Choose varieties lower in mercury like salmon or pollock and puree 75% veggies with 25% fish.
LENTILS: Fiber, protein, and iron are important nutrients for babies and toddlers. Make sure they are getting enough by incorporating lentils! Puree with brown rice and you got yourself a complete protein with all the essential amino acids in the right amounts!
LOTS OF VEGGIES and FRUITS: Babies and toddlers get tons of nutrients from all different varieties of vegetables and fruits; folate, beta carotene, Vitamin A, D, E, and K, Vitamin C, B Vitamins… to name a few! Mix sweeter veggies like carrots with more bitter varieties like spinach. Encourage as many as possible!
I am fully aware that all kids are different and not every child is going to fall in love with every healthy food. Just be patient. Tastes and food preferences are constantly evolving, so it can literally take years to raise a healthy eater! All I ask is that you try to keep a positive, healthy attitude, encourage a WIDE variety of WHOLE foods, limit the sweets and other processed foods, and I know your child will grow up to be a healthy eater!