I love food. I have a master’s degree in nutrition. One might say I’m obsessed with eating. Yet, until recently, I couldn’t understand why so many moms talked—with pride or despair—about whether or not their kids were “good eaters.” Then I had kids.
Watching my oldest son Julian’s first bite of pears two and a half years ago, I got it. If you appreciate delicious, healthy foods, there’s nothing more satisfying than watching your child discover the joys of eating. But how do you cultivate a kid who prefers fruit to french fries and doesn’t turn her nose up at broccoli and salmon? Short answer: Start now. “Most of our taste preferences are formed early in life—in the first couple of years and especially in the first year—by the kinds of exposures we have,” says Alan Greene M.D., author of Feeding Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Program for Healthy, Safe Nutrition. “[As parents], we have the ability to teach kids to recognize and enjoy healthy amounts of good foods. When we miss that opportunity we end up with picky eaters who only like kids’ foods and whom we fight to get to enjoy vegetables.” So embrace that early window. Here are 10 strategies that, from that first spoonful of solids, will help you to raise a child who will learn to eat—and love—everything.
1 Time those first bites right “The best time to feed your baby solids for the first time is when he’s feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed—in the morning or right after a nap,” says Karen Ansel R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (ADA) in Long Island, New York, and co-author of the upcoming book The Baby and Toddler Cookbook: Fresh, Homemade Foods for a Healthy Start. Make sure he’s hungry but not starving and older siblings aren’t running wild around him (it’s distracting). Turn the TV off and stash your iPhone. There’s no rule about what to give first. It could be brown rice cereal mixed with breast milk or formula. Bananas and avocados tend to be easy transitional foods, but you can start with vegetables or even meat. During the first few feedings, your baby will probably take only a couple of bites. When he purses his lips, turns or shakes his head or becomes distracted, he’s had enough.
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