First featured on Essential Baby
For many parents, the thought of mealtimes with a baby or toddler can be quite overwhelming, and for some, it can be a real battle. A battle with your 8-month-old baby is soul destroying, as is the worry about food intake and the impact this may have on sleep! There are some common mistakes that parents seem to make which can all lead to meal times spiralling out of control, and worse still, the creation of a stubborn fussy eater.
Over the years, I’ve identified the common mistakes that parents make and have come up with these tips to reclaim meal times and ease the sense of overwhelm. Remember, it’s Mum and Dad who are the bosses.
1. Meal plan and Freeze
Meal planning at the start of the week allows you to manage the variety of meals and snacks in your child’s diet. Do one cook up, portion and freeze. This takes the stress and effort out of meal times and you are less likely to be dealing with an overtired child.
2. Don’t offer choices and limit snacking
If your child refuses to eat what you serve (always make sure you serve a good variety) then DO NOT bring them anything else. This is teaching them bad habits and setting you up for years of frustration and wasted meals. Children are canny and they quickly learn to play you, holding out for their favourite food. You must be strong and let them know the meal is the meal and there will be nothing else. Kids won’t starve themselves; if they are hungry, they will eat.
3. Set meal time parameters and boundaries
Having a set structure around meal-time is really important in developing your child’s confidence and sense of self. Like with most things, kids who know what to expect are happier and more relaxed. Set some rules around meal times and stick to them. For example:
These sorts of things are all about setting the foundations for family meal times.
4. Don’t Use Squeeze Pouches
Squeezies are bad. No matter how Organic or Natural the ingredients are. To enable them to be shelf stable, they go through a process of extreme heat and pressure to KILL any bacteria. This same process kills the nutritional value. They are high in sugars and use stabilisers to thicken them. And they taste really foul.
Solids is the time for children to learn to taste, chew and enjoy food. Squeezies offer no sensory stimulation; babies do not see, smell or touch the food. They are teaching kids that food comes from a packet, not from fresh ingredients lovingly prepared in the kitchen. There is an overwhelming array of these pouches all making nutritional claims such as natural and organic misleading parents into thinking they are healthy.
If you need a convenient readymade solution to meal times, try my new Fresh Pots range – an all natural preservative free range of fresh meals for babies and toddlers. Find a stockist at www.foodbabieslove.com.au
5. Serve delicious food
Babies (and toddlers, in fact, all of us) like food with flavour. It is a massive misconception that babies like or need bland food. Cook with flavour and love, and you will be rewarded with a happy eater. Serve bland boring and repetitive food and your child will start to refuse it.
6. Too many treats and too much sugar
Everyone loves a treat. But they need to be clearly labeled as ‘Sometimes Food’ and not offered every day. Your child will very quickly develop a preference for sweet (or salty) foods that can lead to a life-long love affair that is difficult to break. Help them by limiting it from the outset. Ways to help avoid too much sugar in every day life:
Following these practical tips will help you and your child to have a better relationship with food and keep things calmer for you.
Here are some interesting articles if interested in reading further.