Phase 1: Healthy Habits
Lifelong taste preferences and eating habits are established in the first several years of life. Developing good habits early can eliminate health and obesity risks later in life. One of the first ways babies learn is through food. Babies are born with a strong preference for sweet tastes and a dislike for sour and bitter tastes. As they get older, these preferences change and children learn to like and dislike certain foods. You can teach your child healthy habits by feeding and offering a variety of nutritious foods, eating well yourself and maintaining a healthy living environment.
Remember these simple tips to create healthy habits:
- Developing good habits takes time. It requires patience and effort to establish a daily routine and commitment.
- Studies show that the earlier children are introduced to fruits and vegetables, the more likely they are to eat them later.
- Be conscious of serving sizes and do not serve too much. A good rule of thumb for portion size is one tablespoon for every year of age.
- Offer and eat a variety of nutritious foods. Stock the house and pantry with low calorie, nutritious foods. Save treats for something special; don’t keep them in plain sight or don’t buy them at all.
- Limit snacks. Eating sporadically can eliminate the ability to sense hunger and lead to overeating. Teach yourself and your children to eat when hungry, not out of boredom or for emotional reasons.
- Do not use food as a reward or to promote good behavior.
- Do not encourage eating during other activities such as watching television or riding in the car, which can lead to overeating.
- Eat at regular mealtimes with three meals and two snacks daily.
- Eat as a family and make mealtime enjoyable. Family meals not only encourage better diets, they also reinforce family relationships.
- You control what goes into your baby’s food. There are no extra additives, seasonings or preservatives.
- The earlier healthy eating habits are introduced and reinforced, the more likely it will be for your child to make wise choices in the future.
- Preparing homemade baby food can help the entire family make wiser food choices.
- The groundwork you lay at this phase of your child’s life will make it easier at the next stage to continue healthy eating for the whole family.
- When fresh vegetables and fruits are a part of your baby’s diet, it will be easy to make these items a regular part of family mealtime.
A Healthier Baby
- Giving your baby food made from fresh fruits and vegetables increases the vitamins and nutrients in the diet. Canning and processing can eliminate these vitamins and nutrients.
- Your baby will react to the stronger tastes, smells and colors of homemade foods. Cooking food at home can maximize the outstanding color, texture and taste of the food.
- Serving homemade baby food to your baby can help her be more open to tasting new flavors, as she grows older.
- Home-prepared baby food allows for a better variety of foods and a more balanced diet. As your baby grows, you can add herbs and seasonings and combine flavors to make mealtime stimulating.
- Early and repeated exposure to a variety of foods like fruits and vegetables has been shown to increase children’s taste for them.
Time and Financial Savings
- Today’s convenient storage containers and food processors make preparing baby food easier than ever.
- Many family recipes have fresh fruit and vegetable ingredients that can be prepared just for baby before other ingredients are added.
- Parents can spend more than $300 on processed food the during their infant’s first year of life. On average, home-prepared food costs around $55 for one year.
- Grocery store weekly sale circulars often have a variety of fruits and vegetables on special that can be used in making your baby’s meals.
- Buying seasonal vegetables and fruits can be more economical than buying items that are out of season.
- Check out local co-ops and farmers’ markets. These can be a wonderful source of fresh and inexpensive fruits and vegetables.