Do you want your child to grow up to appreciate healthy foods? See them choosing authentic cuisines over fast food? This can be achieved, if you start at the beginning. Sophie Moran shows us how to go about raising adventurous eaters.
Contrary to the belief that many parents have, you don’t just have to feed your baby the blandest mush available. While your baby’s palate has not necessarily developed to its fullest extent, many parents will be astonished at the wide range of foods that their baby will try, and enjoy. So how to you go about tempting tiny tastebuds?
Introduce new foods gradually
While many parents are led to believe that introducing certain allergen prone foods, such as fish, eggs, peanuts, etc., within their child’s first year makes it more likely for them to develop food allergies later in life, a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics has said that there is no evidence to support this theory.
The general advice is that if your child has so far not shown any signs of being allergy prone, e.g. suffering from eczema or asthma, it may still be safe to try new foods.
It is recommended that new foods be introduced gradually. After introducing a new food to your child’s diet, wait for three days before feeding it to them again. This will allow a safe amount of time to see if your child has a reaction and if they do, it makes it easy to identify the culprit.
Start with homemade baby food
A good rule of thumb when trying to create homemade baby food is to think of simple dishes that you enjoy yourself, and purée them. While some babies do have an aversion to spices, babies enjoy much more flavours than many parents realise.
For example, the simplest purée to make is with bananas. Simply chop freshly peeled bananas and purée them in a food processor or blender. Bananas are rich in potassium and very good for your baby.
To add extra nutrients to the mixture and to develop your baby’s taste buds, you can try adding many different foods to the purée such as: pears, peaches, plums, cherries, strawberries, and Greek yoghurt.
Here is an example of another delicious purée to make for your baby: mango and pineapple blended together with a few mint leaves into a purée. You can add water to this mixture to achieve the desired level of consistency.
Spice it up
Savoury purée options such as cauliflower and a tiny amount of mild spice, e.g. mild curry powder can also be a tasty dinner for your baby while providing them with a great source of needed nutrients.
Don’t Give Up
If your baby doesn’t take to a new food straight away don’t give up. For many babies, it takes two to three times, or for others 10 to 15 times, of trying a food before they will eat more than one bite of it.
Consistently giving your baby the same food is the best way to ensure they eventually like it. This does not mean to forcing them to eat it, but have them try it a number of times and you will most likely be surprised that they take to it in the end.
Only make one meal at dinnertime
It may seem tough or even cruel, but your child will never learn to eat what they are given if they know that every time they throw a tantrum their demands will be given in to.
While some parents might find this tough love approach hard to swallow, it has been proven to be extremely effective; if they don’t eat what’s in front of them, they don’t eat. Having said this, it is also a good idea to make sure that when you are cooking his or her dinner, you cook at least one type of food that everyone definitely does enjoy.
This way you ensure that your child is not going to go hungry while still not enabling their fussy behaviour.
Dinner should be a fun daily activity for the whole family. Dinnertime is a great bonding time for many families and if your child is in the routine of sitting down for a meal together and expects to try new foods at each dinner, they will be more likely to accept what they are given.
Dessert is a treat
Dessert should be a special treat and not what they eat when they don’t eat their vegetables. If you have given them a big portion it is best not to try and force them to eat after they are full, but they should at least try everything they are given and give it a good attempt before they are allowed dessert.
Make it fun
Create an atmosphere of challenge and adventure. Get excited about new foods. Make trying new and exotic foods feel like a game. One way to do this is to get them to try as many different ‘colours’ as they can. Trying new foods may then give them a new sense of adventure.
It is also okay if they genuinely just don’t like something but it is a good idea to have them try it repeatedly before deciding on this. Also, be sure to lead by example and let your kids see you eating the food too.
We asked expert nutritionist Aveen Bannon from the Dublin Nutrition Clinic a few questions on what parents want to know about raising an adventurous eater…
Q. Will what a mother eats during pregnancy have an impact on what flavours her baby enjoys?
There is growing evidence to suggest that experiences with food flavours can begin in the womb. Breastmilk can also be slightly flavoured by the mother’s diet. Which really helps the argument to maintain a healthy diet in both pregnancy and when breast feeding your child!
Q. What advice would you give to parents who want to raise adventurous eaters?
Be patient… a child’s tastebuds are far more astute than ours so they will find some flavours taste quite strong. We do need to be exposed to a taste eight to 10 times before we know if we like something.
Once a child is 12 months old, you can try expanding their diets. You can start with more adventurous foods that do not have a very strong taste, e.g. olives, hummus, falafel, salmon, mild sauces, etc.
You have a window before they start school and start being influenced by peers. There are some foods that younger children tend not to like, e.g. mushrooms, onions, avocado, cauliflower, beans and broccoli.
Many of us didn’t like eating some of these foods as children and now love them. Tricks you can try are adding chopped spinach or broccoli to pasta and pesto. Top cauliflower with cheese sauce, make bean burgers and try a mushroom soup. Sometimes, it is the look of the food or texture they don’t like so you can introduce the flavours in other ways.
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