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.
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