It is never too early to start getting children to be more adventurous, and less picky eaters. As you are introducing your baby to the exciting world of solids, use your baby’s first bites as a time to make eating bold, sensory, exploratory and fun!
What your baby eats in the first year sets the foundation for their taste and food preferences as older children. Eating is a sensory experience, and touch and smell are just as important as taste.
Here are my 10 strategies for making those first few bites count.
1). Let your baby explore. Playing with your food is not always socially acceptable, but for babies I highly recommend it! It can be a little messy, but place a small amount of the purees on their high chair tray to allow them to touch, play, and familiarize themselves with food.
2). Visually stimulate your baby by offering the rainbow. Prepare a variety of vibrant colors. For example, offer foods like kale for dark greens, beets for bold reds, and butternut squash for vibrant oranges. And, get creative with blends, so that they are not all a dull brown because that is not appealing to anyone. Think about how you would respond to a colorful carrot blend versus a bowl of cooked apples and oatmeal.
3). Have your baby smell food. This can be achieved by putting small amounts of purees on your baby’s highchair tray. Or, when you are cooking, you can set them up to play or sit near the kitchen so they can take in the aromas. This is also why I like to offer homemade or commercial baby foods on a spoon, instead of from pouches, so that babies can smell the food before eating it.
4). Offer a variety. It can be easy to get in a rut and make the same few foods at every meal. Meal planning helps create more variety. Once your baby has been introduced to a handful of foods, aim to have a rotation where the same meal isn’t offered more than 1 day in a row. For example if apples and yogurt were for breakfast on Monday, switch to eggs and avocado for breakfast on Tuesday.
5) Add flavors, herbs and spice. There is no research that babies need bland foods. It is completely safe to add in bold flavors like garlic, onions, cinnamon, nutmeg, mint, basil, cumin, rosemary, oregano and paprika into baby foods. If you are adding dried or fresh herbs into your baby’s first few foods, make sure they are strained out or are completely blended into the purees.
6). Try different cooking techniques. Cooking foods in different ways yields different flavors. Rather than only offering your little one the same foods prepared the same ways, mix it up! Especially, if they didn’t love the food on the first attempt. For example, if you’ve tried steamed broccoli, go ahead and introduce sautéed broccoli prepared with a little olive oil and spices. While raw bananas are tasty, bake a banana with some cinnamon to add a whole new level of yumminess! Or, if you’ve tried scrambled eggs, experiment with hard-boiled.
7). Introduce savory tastes before sweet ones. It is often easier to get a baby to like and prefer vegetables if they are introduced to it before fruit.
8). Make family meals. Once your baby has explored his own foods, offer him what you are eating just in safe consistencies. For example, if you are making rotisserie chicken and roasted veggies for your dinner, blend a portion into a baby friendly consistency.
9). Don’t shy away from strong flavors. Many parents assume their babies won’t like strong or tart flavors. But, that is not always the case! I have seen many kids love bold foods like tart, unsweetened yogurts, lemons and even sauerkraut and kimchi!
10). Limit the sweet factor. While fruit has a lot of nutrition, it also comes with natural fruit sugar. Keep fruit to 1-2 servings per day, and avoid mixing it in with every meal. If buying commercial baby food blends, choose a variety, some with and some without fruit. This will help your baby accept more vegetables and protein.
We will be sharing fresh homemade baby food recipes each week through July. Stay tuned.