Today I'm thrilled to have my dear friend Tricia here to share all about feeding your kiddo! As a pediatric speech pathologist (plus mother of two and a good ol' fashioned overachiever), Trish has a ton of experience educating parents on how to expand their kids' palates to eat anything. Since we are now feeding solid foods to Daxton and I am no expert in this area, I thought it would be fun to have her share a few tips with us mamas today!
Although I'm a pediatric speech-language pathologist and parent educator, I spend most of my time at home with my two beautiful girls. Much of our day is spent preparing and enjoying food in the kitchen together. I wanted to share my tips for successfully introducing foods to your infant and helping your child form a diverse palette for all things healthy! Mealtime with small children can be enjoyable and non-stressful.
1. Start early.
Research shows that a child's palate for likes and dislikes is largely formed by 9 months, so it's best to start earlier with feeding and introduce a WIDE variety of healthy foods. Just little tastes here and there beginning around 5-6 months will increase your child's life-long willingness to consume WHATEVER YOU PUT IN FRONT OF THEM. Isn't that the goal?
2. Start with vegetables and fruits.
No one needs encouragement to like bread. That seems to be an innate desire. Vegetables and fruits are more nutritionally dense and flavorful, so they will give your child more vitamins and minerals in addition to cultivating their palate. If you begin the feeding process with more flavorful foods, then it's easier to incorporate more varied (and bland) items in later.
3. Make your food at home.
Packaged baby food is overcooked and lower in nutrition and flavor. Citric acid and lemon juice are frequently added to preserve the foods and can cause upset stomachs or increased diaper rash. Many people feel overwhelmed at the idea of making two separate meals for themselves and their baby, and my advice is EVERYONE EATS THE SAME THING! Don't make different food for your child, just blend or mash what you have cooked for yourself. Consider steamed or roasted veggies or even raw fruits or veggies blended into a smoothie. (I recommend using spices but limiting salt as you prepare dishes for you and your child. Salt is necessary for our bodies in healthful amounts, but you don't want your child needing lots of salt to enjoy a meal, so it's best to train their palate with spices but limited salt.)
4. Present a familiar food with a non-familiar food.
Trying something new is often overwhelming for little ones, so I reduce stress around the table by pairing a familiar food item with a novel food. Children often require about 10-15 introductions to a new food before they like it, so don't stop trying if things don't go well the first few times. When a child licks or takes a small bite of something, they are still increasing their familiarity with different foods and flavors.
5. Give choices.
Infants and toddlers are always wanting new ways to express their independence, and making choices affords them the opportunity to be powerful! Make a few types of vegetables and then rotate them through meals during the week by offering options between two. Young children can express their opinion through pointing, so separate the items on different plates and hold them out for your child to select. Our job as parents is to provide healthy options and allow the child to feel powerful by choosing from the wonderful foods available.
As a speech-language pathologist and parent educator, I train families to make meaningful connections with their children during routine interactions. As parents communicate and interact intentionally, their child thrives in all areas of development- language, play, social skills, positive behavior, and feeding. If you are struggling with stressful mealtimes and picky eaters, I'm happy to connect with you. Visit my website for more info!
Many thanks for joining and sharing in this space, Tricia! You guys feel free to ask questions in the comments and make sure to give her some love on Instagram @thespicknall4!