Tuesday, 24 September 2013

6 Food Rules for babies (and children)

Food is always a topic of discussion amongst new moms. What to feed baby, when to feed baby, how to feed baby. When it comes to eating, the most difficult child is #5. This is partly due to his allergies when he was younger. As a result, we limited his diet to rice and noodles and a little bit of fish and meat because we didn't know what would trigger it. Now that he is 7, he still has a very limited repertoire of foods which he likes. He only eats noodles that are yellow or green (with no foreign stuff in there i.e. spring onions or bean sprouts) and only certain types of meat. Here are some food rules I try to establish when it comes to Kate's diet so that she will have a more pleasurable food journey as she grows up.

1) Variety, variety, variety

Introduce as much variety as possible into their diet. Between the ages of 6 months and 15 months, they are most receptive to try new foods. This is a window of opportunity to get them used to the different tastes. If they do not like a particular type of food, don't give up. It has been found that it takes about 10 times for a child to accept a new food.

Why is it so important to get them to eat a variety of food?
  • Balanced diet: They will be more likely to get most of the needed vitamins from different foods.
  • To avoid mealtime battles: If your child is used to eating a wide variety of food, it will avoid mealtime battles as they grow into toddlers. And if you have more than 1 child, it will be easier for you to prepare the meals. Imagine if each child will only eat a particular type of food, you will have a headache preparing every meal.
  • Outings / Parties: It will be much easier when you take them out for meals as there will be something on the menu which they like. When they go for parties, you won't have to worry if there will be food that will suit their taste. 
2) Eat everything in moderation

Research comes up with new information all the time. One moment, they say that fish is good. The next moment, they say not to eat too much fish as there are high levels of mercury in fish (the bigger the fish, the higher the mercury level). Other research say that certain vegetables like beetroot and carrots are high in nitrate. So the best thing to do is to eat everything in moderation. In this way, the child's body will not be overly exposed in any case.

Ok, this is definitely not a good example of eating in moderation! This photo must have been taken about 13 years ago. Well, I have come a long way in improving their diets over the years. You can guess who gave her this bag of chips. I think #1 must have been around 18 months.  But actually, I think the hubs had almost finished eating it and left her just a little bit.
Oh boy, this IS good!
3) Drinks should be drank between meals

Imagine our stomach is like a cement mixer. There is acid in there to help to digest our food. If you pour a lot of water in, it will not only dilute the stomach acid, but it will make it much harder to churn and digest your food. Give baby sips of water if the food is dry. Otherwise, let her drink water throughout the day instead of during meals.

4) Eat together as a family

Eating should be a pleasurable social activity. Many studies have shown a host of benefits for children and teenagers who eat together with the family on most days of the week. These include family cohesion, increased language acquisition, and even success in school. I try to let Kate eat with us as much as possible. Our dinners are at 6pm everyday which suits her. She has her breakfast at 8am, her lunch at 12noon, some fruits for tea at 3, and dinner at 6pm. Her milk feeds will be interspersed between her mealtimes. Also, once they pass 18 months, they will start to be more picky, especially with foods they have never tasted before. By eating together, when they see mom and dad (and many other siblings) eating the same foods, they may be more willing to try it.

When #1 was a toddler, we were busy studying and we left her to eat by herself while I kept an eye on her. I also read that they should be taught to feed themselves, and not to mind the mess. This is what happened!
Maybe some rice should go here, here and here...
5) Proteins earlier in the day

Protein-rich foods take longer to digest, therefore they should be eaten at breakfast and lunch, not at dinner. You don't want it to sit heavily in your stomach while you sleep.

6) Have the right attitude

Don't let your child see that you are trying to convince her to eat her vegetables. On the other hand, don't go overboard praising or cheering her on when she eats her vegetables either. Aim for cheerful nonchalance. If she refuses to eat a particular food, you can put it on your own plate and pretend to give it to her reluctantly. Let her try at least 1 bite, and after a few times, she may come to accept the food. 

Sane tip: Of course, these are the ideals which I try to stick to as much as possible. But there will be times when it's not possible and things are not going well, but I don't fret about it. Just keep in mind the bigger picture.

Save tip: It is important to establish good eating habits from young. If not, your child may grow up to be a fussy eater and believe me, it will drive you nuts. Not only will you be wasting a lot of time and energy trying to get her to eat what you want her to eat, you will waste a lot of food which you have prepared.


~ www.mummyweeblog.com - a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~

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