• Here's How to Teach Your Baby to Eat Healthier When She Grows Up

    Starting these eating habits as early as six months can make a huge difference, says nutrition expert
    by Kitty Elicay .
  • Here's How to Teach Your Baby to Eat Healthier When She Grows Up
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  • Over at our Facebook page, we get a lot of messages asking us how they can convince their toddlers to eat healthier — some parents send us messages that their kids prefer drinking milk than eating solid food, some only like eating dry food, while others still would eat rice without any viand.

    Having a picky eater for a child can be a nightmare, but according to Dr. Andrea Maier- Nöth, a scientific consultant on health psychology and nutrition and the managing director of Eat-Health-Pleasure GmbH in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, there are ways to train your baby to develop food preferences and healthy eating habits.

    She revealed her findings during the 91st Nestlé Nutrition Institute Workshop in the Philippines entitled “Nurturing a Healthy Generation of Children: Research Gaps and Opportunities.” The workshop explored early eating behavior and taste development, as well as understanding what children from around the world eat.

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    Dr. Nöth explained that children have many taste buds and are born with the ability to taste, smell, and discriminate among a variety of foods. They learn how to like and enjoy a variety of foods that are healthy and pleasurable (for them). It can be shaped during the period between their birth up to two years with proper guidance from parents.

    But in the Philippines, a study by the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) found that infants and toddlers aged 6-35 months consumed too much fat. Many micronutrients in Filipino children are also markedly inadequate. They love rice but lacked nutrient-dense food such as milk, fruits, and vegetables only played a small role in the diet, according to Dr. Imelda Agdeppa, assistant scientist and officer-in-charge of the Nutrient Assessment and Monitoring Division of the DOST-FNRI.

    When your baby reaches six months and is ready for solid food, here are some tips to jumpstart her healthy eating habits, according to Dr. Nöth:

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    1. Continue breastfeeding if possible. Breast milk carries flavors from the mother’s diet that encourage later acceptance of a variety of food. This means that you have to eat healthy, too, mom!

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    2. Gently incorporate solid food into baby’s routine. If you're feeding him for the very first time, try this homemade cereal recipe, and mix in breast milk until the consistency is runny. When your baby turns 7 months, try pureed food; be adventurous with vegetables and fruits!

    3. Train your baby’s preferences by feeding him a variety of vegetables with different textures and tastes. Teach her to accept vegetables and fruits even if they are bitter and sour. Make sure that they also come in different textures and flavors.

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    4. Encourage her to eat by giving her healthy finger food. At 8 months, your child may be ready for food that she can hold and eat by herself. Try giving her soft fruits like watermelon, banana, and orange slices.

    5. Be a role model. By eating the kinds of food you want your child to eat and showing her just how much you enjoy it, she’ll be reassured and will likely copy you.

    6. Don’t give up after only two to three tries. Training your baby requires a lot of patience. If your baby does not accept a new food, offer it on at least eight occasions between food that he likes. Exposing infants early to the taste of commonly rejected food, such as vegetables, is a powerful strategy to increase food preference beyond the pickiness phase.

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    7. Don’t try to force your infant to eat. Instead, make sure she takes at least a tiny taste during each meal. Some infants hardly eat any of an initially disliked vegetable for five to six days and then suddenly start to eat and enjoy it, says Dr. Nöth. 

    8. Keep calm and be patient whenever your child rejects food. Don’t panic — fussy children do grow out of it!

    9. Avoid putting food that your baby dislikes next to a plate of food that she likes. Kids automatically hate any food you force on them, and a study even found that adults who remembered being forced to eat something as a kid ended up hating (and actively avoiding) it.

    Nurturing these healthy habits will have a substancial impact on your child's growth and development. So grab the opportunity and encourage your little ones to eat!

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