How To Get Your Baby To Eat Anything

by Rachel Burge |

Yes, even that pesky sprout will become a delight to your baby if you follow these tips…

Nobody wants their child to grow into a fussy eater – after all, who wants to cook several meals an evening or dread going to a restaurant in case they don’t have anything your child will eat?

Eating a wide variety of foods, including fruit and vegetables, protein, starch and dairy, is also the best way to ensure your child enjoys a healthy, nutritious and balanced diet. 

So far, so good, but how do you achieve this? Research shows that the earlier you expose your child to different flavours (one study found that what a woman eats during pregnancy can shape food preferences later in life) the less likely they are to be fussy about food when older.

The taste test

The two main things to think about when encouraging your baby to enjoy variety in his food are tastes and textures.

The trick to persuading a baby to like different tastes is to offer as many combinations of flavours as possible, as well as individual flavours alone. Aim to give each food on at least 15 occasions by the time your baby is one year old.

Begin by mixing the item with something that your baby is already familiar with and enjoys. So, as an example, if you want to encourage a love of sprouts you could plan to offer the following mixtures:

  • Sprouts with carrot

  • Sprouts with potato

  • Sprouts with sweet potato

  • Sprouts with apple,

  • Sprouts with carrot and potato

  • Sprouts with carrot and lentils

  • Sprouts with peas and rice

You can see that the sprouts appear as a component of many different dinners. Over the process your baby will become familiar with the taste and should come to enjoy it. Even if you choose not to mix the sprouts (or whatever food) with something else, do keep offering it to your little one.

The trick to persuading a baby to like different tastes is to offer as many combinations of flavours as possible

Don’t Give Up!

A study from The Pennsylvania State University’s Center for Childhood Obesity Research found that young children tend to like a new vegetable more after they have tasted it six different times – while another study found that babies who were exposed to a different vegetable for eight days in a row were more likely to eat it.

Play with texture

The other aspect of encouraging an adventurous baby, happy to experiment with her meals, is to give different textured foods. Don't get stuck for too long offering only purées. It's best to move quite soon to mashed and lumpy foods, and to give finger foods from six months onwards.

Dos and don’ts

Don’t offer bribes such as chocolate or sweets for eating vegetables – this is only like to increase your child’s preference for the reward, and not the healthy option.

Don’t get angry, upset and never force your child to eat anything he doesn’t like. Low-key encouragement and positive messages around food are best, even from a very young age.

Do set a good example. Research shows that children who see adults eating vegetables are more likely to try them themselves – and once older, seeing other children eat them had even more influence.

Don’t force it. Children detect bitter flavours in certain vegetables like broccoli more than adults – and some will have a natural aversion to it. No amount of trying will make them like it. If they enjoy eat peas or sweetcorn, just let them enjoy that instead.

Don’t pass on your dislikes. Don't forget that you can feed your baby foods that you don't enjoy yourself too. There's no reason to pass on your dislike of cherries or fish.

Do go for bright colours. A study from the University of Cornell found that kids are attracted to plates that contain six different colours – so make that finger food buffet bright and beautiful!

Offer lots of flavours but be firm

UK toddlers are the pickiest eaters in Europe, according to a survey from the European Toddler Nutrition Index, which found that more than a quarter of British children aged under five refuse meals as least once a day, compared with just 15 percent in France and Germany.

Nearly half of the UK mums surveyed admitted that they let their toddler get away with not eating certain foods in order to save time and effort. And British mums are also more likely to cave in than their Continental counterparts when it comes to allowing children access to the treat cupboard.

So, while you want to offer a variety of purée options and finger foods, be wary of letting your little ones only eat sweet flavours or biscuits. You could be setting yourself up for trouble in the future!

Hopefully if you follow these guidelines, the only thing you will have to worry about when you take your toddler to a restaurant, is his table manners, and not his fussy palate.

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