Introducing baby to solid food is both exciting and anxiety-causing. There’s so much advice out there, from what foods are healthy and appropriate to start baby off with, to eating strategies like baby-lead weaning to utensils to buy that will ease the transition.
Of course, the end goal is to raise a child who is healthy, who eats a wide variety of food, who is independent and confident in eating. The last thing any mum wants is a child who is a picky, difficult eater!
Here are some dos and don’ts to raise a mindful eater:
DO offer balanced, nutritious, appealing meals and snacks. Cover all nutrient requirements by exposing him to many different foods. This is important to prepare him to try new food. Eat a variety of foods yourself to be a good role model.
DON’T cater to your child’s preferences. Don’t cater exclusively to only what your child will eat because you may get stuck doing this for many years! Offer at least one safe food every meal, which you know your child will likely eat. This could be a rice, vegetable or fruit.
DO stay on a meal and snack schedule. Staying on a schedule means your child will have plenty of opportunities to eat during the day, which takes the pressure off when he skips a meal. When your child choose to eat very little or not to eat at all at a scheduled opportunity to eat, allow him to be done and remind him when the next opportunity to eat is scheduled.
DON’T push your child to eat more. Pushing extra bites or sips often backfires, especially when children are picky. If your child knows that you’re going to nag or force them to try a bite of new food, they will already feel negative towards it.
DO allow self-feeding, even if it is messy. This puts your child in charge and lets him know that you trust him. Your goal is to raise a healthy confident eater. We want them to feel capable at the table- to grow to be independent eaters, able to choose from food provided and how much to eat. Although it is messy at first, this is how they learn to eat independently.
DON’T force-feed him. It’s understandable to be worried that your child is not getting enough but force-feeding him takes all the control away from your child. They will not like it, especially as they get older and they will start feeling incapable causing a delay in the development of skills to feed themselves.
DO stay positive. Even when you are frustrated, overwhelmed or angry, your child should not see you lose your temper, as this may tempt your toddler to keep getting negative reactions out of you.
DON’T show your emotions. No anger, frustration, or punishment! Your goal is to be steady and not react to any antics. Children can develop a negative association with eating and food when they are punished for not eating certain foods, or enough. This will not only create negative associations with food, but will also hurt his self-esteem, and perhaps encourage long-term picky eating, binge eating or other forms of disordered eating.