how to raise a happy healthy eater
Introducing solid foods is a fun and exciting stage in your baby’s development! But, it may also invoke a little anxiety. And maybe even a little confusion with the number of baby books and amount of information out there. Here are 5 tips to help get you started:
1. Focus on food exploration - Transitioning to solids is a huge step! It’s important to introduce your child to the foods on their plate. Let them explore the various tastes, smells, and textures without worrying about the amount of food they are eating. Remember that your child is still learning to eat, so it’s ok if they have 1 bite of food or 10 bites - that’s why they still have their milk available to them.
2. Get messy! - It’s important to let your child explore their food, not only with their mouths, but with their hands too! Allowing your child to play with their food lets them explore all their senses and become familiar with each food item in front of them. It also helps them find enjoyment in the routine. Go slow and give them time to feel comfortable. Plus, let’s be honest, if they have some food on their hands - it’s likely going to end up in their mouth too!
Try to avoid cleaning them up in their chair after and instead, bring your child to the sink for clean up. Getting messy really is a big part of learning about food and we don’t want them to associate negative feelings with meal time.
3. Always wear a smile! - Have you ever noticed that when you’re on high alert, your child is too? Kids pick up on cues that let them know when we are happy, mad, sad, etc. If you’re not happy, then your child won’t be happy either, which leads to an unenjoyable mealtime for everyone. Try to use positive language throughout the meal to help make your child feel happy and comfortable.
4. Model tasting foods – Think about that time your friend made a disgusted face after taking a bite of food and said, “you should try it”. Did you want to try it after that? This goes for your child too! If you won’t eat it, why would they want to? Have them try foods/flavors that you’re interested in too and remember, model with a smile - they’re only as excited as you are!
5. I’ll have what you’re having! - Kids should ideally be eating as many home cooked meals as possible! Eating too much food from jars and pouches limits flavors and variety while home cooked meals allows for the greatest variety of flavors. You want to be sure to avoid too much salt early on, but make sure you’re keeping all those other flavors in your child’s food. Spices (even spicy flavors) are all beneficial. Plus, when you’re eating the same foods as your child, it’s easy for you to model tasting those foods.
Remember to have fun with it and enjoy this fun stage in your child’s development!
Christine Miroddi Yoder is a parent and feeding expert. She is the author of the book Mealtime Mindset and the Podcast How to Un Picky Your Picky Eater and owner of the feeding clinic Foodology Feeding Therapy.