10 months old
Establishing Healthy Eating Habits
Children are notoriously picky eaters who have to be tricked into eating their vegetables and promised cookies just to eat their dinner. They like things with chocolate, sprinkles and sugar – and don’t even think about plopping down a bowl full of broccoli.
The truth is that children aren’t born immediately craving sweet foods. Yes, some children will inevitably go through picky phases in early childhood (this week it’s only macaroni and cheese, next it’s peanut butter and jelly), and who doesn’t like a warm chocolate chip cookie? But you don’t have to set your kids up to follow the stereotypes. You don’t have to assume that serving vegetables will automatically be a losing battle.
Much of your child’s future eating habits depend on the types of foods he or she is getting right from the beginning. The only food your baby knows is what you give, so he won’t know that he could be eating French fries instead of carrot sticks, or Lucky Charms instead of oatmeal. If you set the standard for what food is served, then that’s what they’ll eventually view as “normal.” That isn’t to say you should forever ban cake and French Fries from your child’s life (tell a child he can’t have something and that’s all he’ll want), but it’s important to start with the basics:
- Hold off on serving unnecessarily sweet food as long as you can. As adults, we assume that our babies would prefer plain yogurt with mashed strawberries or rice cereal mixed with sweet applesauce. Your baby has a brand new palate, so give him or her a chance to develop a taste for unsweetened foods. Keep your meals full of protein, vegetables and grains, and serve peaches, mangoes and bananas on their own, as a treat in and of themselves. Your baby will have no idea what a cookie is unless you give him one. (Your baby will eventually have ice cream; what’s the rush?)
- The same goes for salty foods. Just because we’d prefer our mashed potatoes loaded with salt and butter, that doesn’t mean your baby’s pure palate needs the seasoning. Leaving foods in their natural state is always the best bet for babies.
- While children will almost always prefer white bread to wheat, it’s the same concept as with sweets: Your baby will never know white bread unless you offer it. That’s not to say that your little one won’t have a play date in a few years and be introduced to white bread, but at least your baby won’t reject wheat bread as something “healthy” and unfamiliar.
- Don’t be afraid to mix up your baby’s diet. Of course there are certain things you can and cannot offer a baby under a year old, but try offering a variety of not-as-common grains (quinoa, barley, rye), vegetables (cauliflower, squash, zucchini) and fruits (cantaloupe, pumpkin, avocado). Don’t assume your baby won’t like tofu or beets just because they might not be in your comfort zone. While serving a variety of foods won’t automatically prevent a picky toddler, it’s the best shot you have.
- Most importantly: Set a good example. If your child sees you eating (and enjoying) a plate of vegetables, your little one is more likely to follow. After all, you’re setting the standards for healthy eating.