This is Minna, my youngest grandchild. She is five months old and beginning to express an interest in real food. She should be ready to start eating solids soon. Her mama, my daughter Lindsay, has done a great job of fattening her up on breastmilk, as you can clearly see, but being a first time mom she really had no idea when or how to introduce solids or what foods were best to introduce first. 
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A Parent's Guide to Creating Good Eaters!

To help out I gave Lindsay a book called ‘What a Good Eater!’ (also available for Kindle) and I am going to come right out and recommend it to you or anyone you know with a young family. The recipes are all beautiful, fresh, real food recipes that are no nonsense. You don’t need special tools or equipment to make any of the recipes and the photographs are lovely. The book not only explains when and how to introduce solids to babies, but also has tips and recipes for toddlers and young children that are specifically designed to broaden your child’s palate. 

Your Child’s Palate is Established in The First Few Years of Life!

Did you know your baby’s palate develops while in the womb! It’s true, the flavors eaten by mom during pregnancy can determine the flavors a baby is inclined to eat later in life. (See link at bottom of post for more info) Likewise, the flavors you expose the little ones to in the first few years of life will make them more open to trying new things as they get older. Adding herbs and spices to baby’s food when appropriate helps them develop a taste for those flavors! And because eating a wide variety of nutritious food is a huge component of good health, mental well being and social enjoyment, this is very important! 
(Photo and recipe from the book ‘What a Good Eater!’)

A Parent's Guide to Creating Good Eaters!

 Tips for Baby:

These suggestions are meant for healthy babies that still get plenty of protein and fat from breastmilk or formula.

  1. Wait for baby to express an interest in food before introducing solids.
  2. Introduce foods one at a time with at least three days in between new additions so if baby has a reaction to food you know which food caused it.
  3. Keep food real and simple: mashed avocado, cooked pureed fruits or veggies. 
  4. Don’t give up on a food if baby isn’t interested or doesn’t like a food immediately. All these flavors and textures are new to them. Have patience, keep trying.
  5. When baby is accustomed to a food, begin adding herbs and spices: a sprinkle of cinnamon to mashed bananas, a drop vanilla to applesauce or rosemary to roasted squash etc… adding new flavors is the beginning step in broadening your baby’s palate and it’s so easy to do!

Tips for Toddlers

This is the time to start combining foods and textures as well as add new and more flavors!

  1. Make food ‘finger friendly’ to avoid frustration. Chubby little fingers have a hard time using utensils, so make foods they can easily pick up.
  2. You dip, I dip, we dip: kids love dipping foods! Offer yogurt with fruit, hummus with veggies, olive oil and balsamic vinegar with breads!
  3. Combine flavors, textures and different foods. Ex: cottage cheese on toast with berries!
  4. Add new flavors: chopped mint with watermelon, onions with peas, lime and lemon with salmon, mild salsa on eggs!
    (Photo and recipe from the book ‘What a Good Eater!’)
  5. AVOID SWEET AND SALTY. American kids get way too much of both.
  6. Add interest with color and shape. 

A Parent's Guide to Creating Good Eaters!

 

Tips for Ages 3 and Up:

Now is the time to involve your child in food selection and preparation. The more of a connection your child has to their food, the more willing they will be to eat it!

  1. Allow children to help you select produce, grains, meats etc.. in the grocery store. 
  2. Schedule a grocery store tour! Kids love this, I see groups of children at Whole Foods Market all the time.
  3. Give children simple tasks in the kitchen: setting the table, putting food in the blender and pressing the button, tossing a salad, using a child safe knife to cut foods, arranging simple foods on a platter etc…
  4. If possible take children to farmers markets and let them sample the farmer’s wares.
  5. Take them to ‘visiting farms’ where they can see cows being milked and food growing in the ground. Knowing food doesn’t magically appear in a box on a grocery shelf is important.
  6. If possible, plant a garden. Even herbs in a pot, or tomatoes in a container on the porch creates interest in food. 
  7. When appropriate visit ethnic restaurants to expose children to food from different cultures. My grandchildren love the strong flavors of Indian and Mediterranean food!
    (Photo and recipe from the book ‘What a Good Eater!’)

A Parent's Guide to Creating Good Eaters!

Keep it Real and Don’t Forget the Fats!

Small children need nutrients to feed their bodies and brains! Feed children real food; fruits, vegetables, and healthy sources of protein and fats. Fats took a big hit in the 80’s and the myth that fats are bad for you is still hanging on, much to the detriment of American’s health. Fats are necessary for literally every function in the human body, and did you know boys need three times the amount of fats as girls? (see link below) Be sure your child is getting healthy fats from a balance of sources like avocados, olive and nut oils, nut butters, mayonnaise made from olive oil or avocado oil, eggs, butter and animal products. See more in links at below.
(Photo and recipe from the book ‘What a Good Eater!’)

A Parents Guide to Creating Good Eaters!

It’s Never Too Late to Start!

If you are feeling like you missed the boat and your child has already developed picky eating habits, take heart! It is never too late to implement the suggestions above. My advice is lead by example, offer offer offer, and educate. Even if you meet resistance, be persistent. Good eating habits can be acquired! 

I hope you found this guide helpful ~ Linda Spiker 

Helpful Links:

For more suggestions and recipes please visit The What A Good Eater website.

Baby’s Palate and Food Memories Are Shaped Before Birth

Brain Starvation: Boys Need Three Times The Amount of Fat as Girls

Curing Your Fat Phobia

A Parent's Guide to Creating Good Eaters!

 

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