Getting your children to eat a healthy diet can be a challenge, especially with picky eaters. But if you know how and when to feed your child as a baby, you can help develop a wide palate for lifelong healthy choices.
When “here comes the airplane!” doesn’t get your baby to eat her peas, it can be easy to give up on the veggies and resign yourself to giving her an old favorite again. But for all the frustrated parents with picky eaters out there, there is hope. Experts weigh in to give you some tips and tricks for getting even the most uncooperative kid to eat well.
Food journalist and mother Bee Wilson, whose new book First Bite examines the ways culture, memories, genetics, and early feeding patterns impact our dietary preferences later in life, has some interesting insights into healthful feeding habits. According to Wilson, via NPR, studies have shown that a child’s predilection for flavors begins developing even before birth.
If a woman eats a lot of garlic during pregnancy, the amniotic fluid acquires a garlicky character. “So imagine swimming around in that for 9 months… That baby will grow up to love garlic… It feels like home, it tastes like home,” says Wilson. So make home a healthful place — start eating healthier food in pregnancy to set your child up to have a broad palate before day one.
A mother’s milk is also hugely influential in their child’s taste preferences. A different study found that mothers who drank carrot juice while breastfeeding reared babies who preferred the flavor of carrots when first tasting solid food. A mother’s healthful diet, then, will naturally guide the baby toward healthy preferences.
A Window of Opportunity
There is also what is known as the “flavor window” between 4 and 7 months of age. During this time, says Wilson, a baby is much more likely to accept different tastes when they’re introduced to the palate. While the World Health Organization advises maintaining a diet strictly of milk for 6 months, Wilson insists, “It’s not that a child necessarily needs any nutrition besides milk before 6 months, it’s that you’re missing an opportunity.”
Capitalize on that window and expose your baby to a mix of veggies and other tastes, but don’t panic if you miss it. Our palates can change remarkably easily with the proper patience and exposure, even as fully-developed adults.
A good diet is key to a healthy baby, but how your baby eats is also vital, according to NPR. Researchers conducted a survey, published in the British Medical Journal, of parents and discovered that babies who finger feed themselves were less likely to be obese, while also preferring snacks that are better for them. Babies who were spoon-fed, meanwhile, had higher rates of obesity and chose sweet treats when given the choice.
Providing nutritious, home-cooked meals is ideal, as is allowing your child to decide on her own when she is full. Forcing kids to clear their plate, for example, has actually been shown to reduce a child’s awareness to her own hunger cues. As a result, she is more likely to end up overweight. As with most things in life, it’s all about finding a balance.
Healthy Baby, Happy Parents
Establishing healthy and balanced eating habits early on, even before birth, is a great way to get your baby on the path to eating well — but keeping up with a medical expert is paramount to overall health. Maintaining regular checkups with the right pediatrician will ensure your child are is in good health, but finding the best provider is not always easy.
Members of SingleCare can search an online database by practice, practitioner, or even symptoms to find the most suitable match for a provider. Users pay only for the treatments they need with no confusing registration paperwork or follow-up phone calls, no matter their level of insurance coverage. Even for the pickiest of eaters, that’s an easy bite to swallow.
* Prescription savings vary by prescription and by pharmacy, and may reach up to 80% off cash price.
This is a medical discount plan.This is NOT insurance. This program offers you the opportunity to locate providers of various types of medical services who will offer their services to you at discounted rates. The range of discounts for medical or ancillary services provided under the plan will vary depending on the type of provider and service received. You are fully responsible for paying for all health care services but will be entitled to receive a discount from those health care providers in accordance with the specific pre-negotiated discounted fee schedule. This program does not guarantee the quality of the services or procedures offered by the providers. Except for prescription drugs which you will pay directly to the pharmacy at the time of purchase, all other services received through a program provider will be charged to the credit card on file in your member account. The charge will include an administrative fee for use of the program. Towers Administrators LLC is the licensed discount medical plan organization with its administrative office located at 4510 Cox Road, Suite 111, Glen Allen, VA 23060. SingleCare Services, LLC is the marketer of the discount medical plan organization including its website, singlecare.com, with its corporate office located at 99 High Street, Suite 2800, Boston, MA 02110. For additional information, including an up-to-date list of providers, or assistance with any issue related to program membership, please contact member support any time at www.singlecare.com, or by calling toll-free 844-234-3057, Monday through Friday 9am-9pm EST.