Tips for introducing healthy foods to your baby

Nutrition plays a huge role in the development of a baby and is key to having a child that is healthy in the years to come, but as any parent will tell you, getting your baby to eat healthy nutritious foods all the time can be a bit of a challenge. While one mamma may take pride in their baby being a “good eater” of all things healthy and natural the other might despair over the issue. If you appreciate the joys of a healthy meal put before you, you’ll agree that there is nothing more satisfying than feeding a child who feels the same. But cultivating your baby to prefer healthy foods over the ones more processed is something that starts from an early age. Training your child to prefer fruit over fries, and to appreciate spinach, broccoli and salmon, starts from an early age. It starts with your baby’s first foods.

Dr. Alan Greene M.D. the author of Feeding Baby Green says: “Most of our taste preferences are formed early in life--the first couple of years and especially the first year--by the kinds of exposures we have.” As parents it is our responsibility to train our kids to recognise and enjoy foods that are healthy in the early years of their life. If we miss that opportunity we end up with picky eaters who strictly cater to “fun foods” and turn their noses at vegetables and fruits. Here are a couple things you can do to help your child form healthy eating habits that can start 6 months of age. Remember, healthy eating should start with the very first spoon of solids!

Time the first bites of food. Timing is everything when you are feeding your baby a new food for the first time. If your baby is cranky, tired, or colicky you’ll have little success. The best time to feed baby is usually in the morning or right after nap. Make sure your baby is hungry but not starving and that he doesn’t have too many distractions around him when he’s trying out new foods. Keep your phone tucked away and the TV turned off. This is his and your time to learn about something new, his turn to learn about that new taste, and your turn to learn about his reaction.

Soft foods like bananas and avocados are usually the easiest to feed as first foods, but mashed vegetables or even meat can go as well. During the first session of a new food, it’s normal for baby to only take few bites and then purse his lips or turn and shakes his head to tell you that he’s had enough.

Give baby lots of variety. While some experts recommend feeding the same food for a few days just to be sure there are no adverse reactions, others recommend introducing a new food every day--and mixtures as soon as possible. You know your baby better than anyone else, so if you feel comfortable with giving them variety then go for it! Some baby nutrition experts say that feeding single foods trains picky eaters, so don’t be afraid to add in new foods to the ones he loves. Use familiar foods to introduce him to new ones. If he likes bananas then try adding apples. Look for fun ways to introduce new foods. Using colours and finger foods are other great ways of getting baby to like new things.

If at first you don’t succeed, try again! 3 out of 4 moms give up on feeding a new food once their baby has refused it 5 or fewer times, but research shows that it can take up to 15 tries before a child will accept a new food. Dr. Alan Greene did a research where he asked mothers to give their babies the vegetable puree that they disliked the most every other day for two weeks. By the end of the two weeks, most the babies loved it! However, as your child gets older it will be normal that they will form food preferences, so if you need to serve something that they dislike then do it in a creative way. Try roasting the carrots one day, putting them into a cake the next, or steaming them.

Spice it up! Most moms prefer to feed their babies a diet of all things boiled, but there is little research that says babies must have a bland diet. Once your baby has started to enjoy food plain, you can try introducing him to mild spices and herbs.

Help your baby connect to food. When feeding your baby say the name of the food. This will help your baby to recognise foods early on. Kids learn to love things that are familiar to them. Reading your baby picture books with fruits and vegetables, planting a summer garden, or making a visit to the farmer’s market are all things you can do to help your child feel connected to their food. A recent study showed that toddlers were more willing to taste unfamiliar fruits after their parents read them books that included those fruits.