Thursday, April 16, 2015

10 tips on How to feed your little one, no matter what their age:

It has always amazed me how much of my attention span is devoted to fulfilling my palette and satisfying my taste buds. In part because I'm a picky eater, but even more so because I love food. Particularly junk food, sweet food, fried food, dessert, meat, and anything that is not green, yellow or red, or resembles a vegetable (unless ofcourse it's fried, then please, by all means, bring it on!).
Post baby, pre diet (I'm talking about myself ofcourse)

My tendency to love all things fattening has not worked out well in my favor, as I currently struggle to zip up and drop the post baby pounds. So I decided from the moment my baby was born that he is going to learn to eat healthy. And not just eat it, but to enjoy healthy foods. Some may say he's thin and doesn't look all that chunky, or like a child who eats 5 times a day, but to me, as long as he eats somewhat of his meals, at the right times, I'm happy (and I'm also happy that he is not that "healthy" looking because it will only make his life easier when he is older.)

As moms, we often discuss what our child eats, but not how they eat. Below are some tips that are food rules I try to stick to with my son, and the logic behind them. Yes every child is different, but their nutritional needs are the same, and so are their tendencies to push their boundaries in order to learn what is okay and what isn't. So these tips should help get you into gear of how to feed. More on what to feed to come!

And yes, these can be introduced as soon as they start eating, or at whatever age they are now, and maintained while they grow.

(For tips on introducing solids, or more food rules click here.)

Food rules, but so does Mom:

1. No toys or TV while feeding! While it is easier to feed a distracted child, in the long run, this has been shown to be an unhealthy eating habit (for example, I along with other people with this habit would eat anything placed in front of me without a sense of quantity while watching TV). Ofcourse, this leads to alot of singing and talking while feeding, but there is still a decision being made on the part of the child to open their mouth and eat.

2. No means no means no. Spitting out all that is offered also means no. I know this is a tough one for many to follow as it is really upsetting when baby doesn't eat. However, we have to teach them to trust their instincts and so if they are not hungry, it's okay. Don't force or shove food in because this will make meal time tougher in the long run. Let them off the hook for the meal and try again later.

3. If what is offered is not enjoyed, do not replace it with something else. We add cheese, bread, something my child likes to make it yummier. However, if he still won't eat then he misses that meal. Temporarily that is. I will offer a smoothie or another snack, just not immediately. (The logic being that I am not reinforcing his refusal to eat his lunch!)

4. Cater to their tastes. This doesn't mean you only offer cookies and ice cream, but we also shouldn't restrict kids to what we think is our idea of healthy. Children need fats - it feeds and grows their brain! So offer it in healthy ways at specific times. Add cheese to the veggies to make it yummy, or offer up a little sweet potato or yam.

5. If kids can't eat the fun stuff, who can? We all want our children to be healthy, live long, develop good eating habits. However, restricting things will only teach them to do it behind your back, or lie to you, once they are old enough to know how (and they will get their sooner rather than later.) So instead, embrace it and control it. I allow my son dessert (yes even at 14 months), when we go out for lunch, or at birthday parties. If we haven't had an occasion, I will let him eat something yummy at home. After his nap or meal ofcourse.
A little chocolate egg did no damage on easter (however, the rest of the basket is not filled with jelly beans)

6. If you don't make it a big deal, it won't be. So don't try to negotiate - be firm. That means that he or she can have their cookie at snack time, not instead of a meal. But it also means that if they didn't like their lunch, it's alright. They can have something else (similar not sugary) a little later and when the designated snack time comes, they can have what they asked for. Also, don't stress about the vegetables - offer them up and show by example how they should be eaten. (Note: this negotiation will work for older kids, but even our young tots will learn from our cues to know when to expect their snacks and when they have to eat their vegetables).

7. Family meal time isn't the most convenient but it is the most important. Even if that means you have to snack with your child earlier and eat again later. This isn't always possible. My husband works late, but instead I make sure to eat lunch with my son, and we go out as a family often to eat. Kids learn the most by imitation, so why not show them how they are to eat?  This will eventually become a bonding and sharing ritual for your family, as your child gets older.

8. Where to eat is as important as what you feed. Because this helps set up food habits that will eventually govern food choices. Not all kids will willingly sit on the high chair, but be firm with this one at least for lunch, dinner and your family meals as it is important for your child to absorb all the benefits that come from eating as a family but also from eating in one place.
Toys on the table, yes. Toys during mealtime? Big no.

9. Set firm meal times, and adjust them according to your child's needs. This doesn't mean that if your child is hungry a little before lunch you cannot eat lunch earlier if it is ready. However, it does mean that we will not have a big snack just before lunch that obliterates the need for lunch.

10. Children get fussier not easier, and even more so about trying new foods to introduce the foods you want when they are young. Even if you don't cook (like me), shop around for different meats, fruits and vegetables, and try different variations or combinations so that a range of tastes are introduced and ingrained by the time your baby is a fussy tot.

Riaan's Current food schedule (at 14 months):
Note - timing for breakfast is adjusted based on when he wakes up.
6am - wake up and be greated with 7 oz. of milk
7.30 am - Heavy Breakfast
10/11 am - Fruity snack before naptime
1.30 pm - Lunchtime
4pm - Post nap fruit or vegetable Juice (4 oz.)
5pm - Snack
7.30 pm - dinner
8.30 pm - Bedtime milk (5 oz.)
The times here are variable but so are the ages the meals were introduced. We started with one meal at 5 months of age, added another around 6 months. We added dinner around 8 months, and then the snacks were added a month apart around 11 months of age, when I weaned my son.

I hope this is helpful to all. I will follow-up soon with what to feed.

More to come!

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