Monday, January 31, 2011

Eat...and teach your kids to eat well

As my little one turned six months old last week (don't even get me started on how quickly the time has gone) thoughts have turned to feeding baby. When it came to planning his introduction to solid foods, I chose not to feed him the ubiquitous white rice cereal. 


Why? A few reasons:


1. Aside from the iron that is added to it, plain rice cereal doesn't have a lot going for it, nutritionally speaking.
2. Since it will take a while for a new eater to eat substantial amounts, breast milk is still supplying 99% of his energy. I wanted to focus on nutrient dense foods instead of caloric filler.
3. During this phase of learning to eat and accept new foods, I wanted the foods I introduce to be preparation for the foods we are going to eat as a family, namely fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. 


So far he has eaten a variety of organic produce: carrots, acorn squash, garnet yams and avocado. The only food that got an amusing reaction was the avocado (kind of like a pucker and a shudder!) but after each squirm he still opened his mouth, eager for the next bite. I have been doing veggies before I go for fruits, with the idea that giving sweets first might make a child less willing to accept the more complex flavours of veggies.


Before I go any further, a disclaimer: while I am a dietitian, I am no expert on infant nutrition. I am speaking in this post from my own opinions and experience. 


In my work I often get questions from moms about how to get their kids to eat more vegetables. The question I always ask is, "have you fed your child vegetables from the very start?" The answer is usually "no". As parents, we tend to project our ideas about food onto our children such as "there is no way little Sally will like broccoli...". You want to know a secret? You teach your child what to like and dislike! It is all about what your child is accustomed to eating. How can you expect your child to want to eat vegetables if they were introduced to sweet, bland foods? Or worse, if you don't eat many vegetables yourself?  Consider your baby's first foods an opportunity to introduce them to the healthiest way of eating possible. It might even rub off on the entire family...


A couple of links you might find interesting:


I came across the White Out campaign today, spearheaded by Dr Alan Greene, a pediatrician. He is hoping to convince parents to substitute white rice cereal for whole grain rice cereal. This is a small step in the right direction of breaking our culture's obsession with super processed carbs. You can learn more about the campaign at WhiteOut Now! | DrGreene.com

For those of you in the greater Vancouver area looking to learn more about feeding your baby, check out Vitamin K Nutrition by a colleague, Kristen Yarker Edgar RD who teaches classes on feeding your baby so that you can have yourself a champion eater!


In good health,
Desiree



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