I recently joined a facebook group – well, more like a dad’s support group. ( I know what you’re thinking…is Brooke pregnant? I’m not saying Yes or No at this point 🙂
I introduced myself to the group and said that I could be a point of reference for any health, wellness or oral care questions they might have!
I’m going to use this heading as a Q & A to answer questions as they are presented to me!
Q: “Okay first question! My little boy is 11 months old and has started to go off his food and get really really picky! Is this normal? And suggestions of how to get good stuff into him?( We try and home cook but all he wants is Ella’s kitchen)
First off, congrats are in order as you approach year 1 in your child’s life! I’d love to hear about your most memorable memories sometime.
Before I go into my personal experience, I’d like to refer you to two articles that I believe are on-point in regards to picky eaters.
I strongly believe that it’s important to offer resources to parents after responding because, as you know, every child is different and there is no black and white when it comes to raising your child.
First, I want you to know that it is perfectly normal to have an infant/toddler suddenly transition into a picky eater. Most of the times it’s a ‘texture’ thing and sometimes it’s a belly thing ( we see more and more little ones have a tough time with milk).
Baby food and formula is bland; when you transition to more ‘human’ food, I have found that its best to keep it simple. Sweet potatoes, mashed, for example is wonderful for babies transitioning into more solid foods.
Although 11 months isn’t really considered a toddler just yet, there are two truths all parents can agree with:
- You can’t force children to eat
- Even if, as parents you try, you realize this fact is true. They will not starve themselves.
Also, I have found several parents have a tough time getting their toddler to eat at dinnertime. Why? Because all too often they are snacking between lunch and dinner time…and they aren’t hungry enough to eat unless they REALLY want it.
So let’s get to some specific recommendations from my 13 yrs of experience in the medical /dental field and the last few years of real-world trial and error:
- Junk the Juice. Juices do NOT constitute a necessary component of an infant or child’s diet. That is a fact, not opinion. The ”natural” sugar in juice has the same effect on insulin secretion as soda pop does. As for the vitamins that they say are in the juice; its few and far between AND your little one can get the nutrients from other sources. STICK WITH WATER. When children board the ‘juice train’ they often transition into picky eaters because they get used to wanting food that makes them feel good immediately.
- Starting at Age 1, your child can start drinking 2% milk and slowly introduce more solid foods. Encourage slow eating with the whole family. Exaggerate the beautiful colors of some vegetables, mash them up if necessary. It might take up to 20 times before a child will say they like a food. So DONT GIVE UP! This can be quite a challenge for some parents…depending on how early I can intervene and make some behavioral recommendations. The older a child is, the more difficult it will be to encourage your child to eat healthy foods.
- A STRONG RECOMMENDATION: Do NOT get on the fast food train or ‘kid friendly food’ train. Keep healthy foods in the house and when you all sit down to dinner, fill your plate with colorful greens and a protein. Children are wonderful copycats. They will do what you do. Say what you say. Want to eat what you eat. You can never start early enough. Now, this isn’t saying you will never have McDonalds or pizza; I’m just saying make a commitment to healthy eating and it will make your lives a whole lot easier and your child’s health will stay on the up and up.
- Create Routines around each Meal (This is HUGE). Routines make children feel loved and secure. Establish regular meal and snack times beginning when your child is 9-12 months old. Routines help children look forward to each meal. *
- Offer 3 to 4 healthy food choices (that your child likes) at each meal. Research shows that children will choose a healthy diet when they are offered a selection of different healthy foods. *
- Don’t force your baby or toddler to eat. This often results in children refusing the food and eating less. *
- Don’t give up on new foods! Patience is the key. You may have to offer your child a new food 10 or 15 times before he will eat it. *
- Turn off the TV (computers, etc) at mealtime. The television can distract children from eating. It also takes time away from talking as a family. *
- Healthy eating and exercise go hand in hand. So make active play a part of everyday family life. *
*#4-8 courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatrics publication Healthy from the Start.