7 great ways to teach your infant healthy eating habits
The proverb “charity begins at home” indeed holds true when it comes to teaching your child healthy eating habits. Rather, you should start inculcating good eating habits from the moment you start feeding solid foods to your infant. This is the reason why doctors and nutritionists recommend offering complementary foods without salt or sugar initially, so that your little one can adapt to the original tastes, textures and aromas easily. Here are some more tips that can help you teach healthy eating habits without getting into tears or fights.
- Give your child options: When it comes to feeding your baby solid foods, you can choose from a number of flavours. Do not limit your child’s diet to any one or two fruits and vegetables. Instead, offer him a different flavour each day. This will expand his palate and will reduce the chances of fussy behaviour at a later age. At 6 months, you can start with single-ingredient meals and gradually scale up to meals that combine two or three ingredients.
- Avoid force feeding: Your baby has a tiny stomach and knows his limits. Forcing your child to eat when he is not hungry does not build healthy eating habits. Instead, it will only make him averse to mealtimes. Look at what your child is trying to tell you through his body language. If he spits out familiar foods, pushes the spoon away, covers his face with his hands, or turns away from food, he is probably trying to tell you that he is full. If you feel your baby hasn’t eaten enough, wait for a while before offering him any more food.
- Never bribe your baby: As a parent, it is tempting to say things like, ‘when you finish eating, I’ll get you a toy’ or ‘you can leave the table once you have finished eating’. Bribing your child in this way can make him develop a negative relationship with food. He might begin to expect rewards for just eating, and might consider eating to be a chore. Instead, use hugs and praises as rewards.
- Let him choose: Just like adults, babies do not like being forced to do anything. Instead of deciding what your baby must eat for every meal, let him choose. Give him the option of 2-3 healthy foods for children and let him pick from them. This will make your child feel valued, and this way, you can take into account your child’s preferences and make him happier at mealtimes.
- Give him time to adapt: Your baby will take some time to adjust every time you introduce a new food. To help develop good eating habits in kids, it is important for you to understand that your baby might accept some foods much faster than others. Many babies can take up to 15 tries before they accept the taste and texture of a new solid food.
- Complementary foods with added nutrients: During the initial years of their life, children have very high nutritional needs. As their bodies grow and develop, they need a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, vitamins, and fats. Since they have small stomachs and cannot eat a lot at every mealtime, it is a good idea to give them iron-fortified cereals. This will help enhance the nutritional aspect of their food and aid in healthy growth and development. Folate, vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc are some other essential micronutrients your baby needs.
- Make the experience enjoyable: To teach kids healthy eating habits, it is important for them to associate meals with happiness. Make mealtimes a happy experience by mixing play with their feeding time. This will help your baby grow into a happy and confident child.
All in all, by teaching healthy food habits from an early age, you can ensure that your child will choose wisely when he becomes a toddler, a teenager and an adult. You will also be able to curb his love for junk food this way, later on. So, it’s a win-win for everyone!