We all want healthy children who eat a variety of foods, including broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
But raising non-fussy kids is more of a challenge.
Paediatric nutritionist and food author Mandy Sacher believes there are three times you can influence whether your baby will enjoy a balanced and varied diet.
These are during your third trimester while pregnant, when breastfeeding and when introducing solid foods to your baby for the first time.
Here, speaking to FEMAIL, Mandy reveals how you can train your children not to be fussy eaters.
Paediatric nutritionist and food author Mandy Sacher (pictured) believes there are three times you can influence whether your baby will enjoy a balanced and varied diet
These are during the third trimester, while breastfeeding and then when introducing solid foods for the first time (stock image)
During the third trimester, Mandy recommends you expose yourself – and therefore your baby – to flavours including mint, anise, vanilla and garlic to help them accept them (stock image)
DURING THIRD TRIMESTER
While you might not think that what you eat while you’re growing your baby is all that important, in actual fact Mandy said your baby does in fact ‘taste what you taste’.
‘It’s really important that your baby can understand flavours you’re feeding him or her,’ Mandy said – adding that ‘the flavours of your food can make their way into the amniotic fluid, which is then repeatedly swallowed by the foetus’.
The paediatric nutritionist recommends you expose yourself – and therefore your baby – to flavours including mint, anise, vanilla and garlic, and this will help your baby to be more accepting of these flavours once solids are introduced.
‘It’s not surprising when we look around at different cultures with diverse cuisine that we find babies accepting of different flavours, such as spicy, bitter and pungent flavours,’ she said.
Mandy highlighted two studies with this research. In on experiment, she said that mothers who drank carrot juice every day during their last trimester had babies ‘who seemed to like the taste of carrot juice’.
Meanwhile, another conducted on pregnant rats showed that the offspring of mothers given a diet of processed foods high in fat, salt and sugar were more likely to prefer junk food and dislike healthy food once the baby was born.
Tips for training your baby’s tastebuds
* Expose your baby to a wide variety of flavour, starting in utero via the amniotic fluid (foods a mother ingests).
* Include plenty of vegetables, including leafy green and cruciferous vegetables, which are often the hardest to convince little ones to eat.
* Remember to ensure your baby is exposed to different smells (olfactory exposure) due to foods being prepared in the family home.
* Do not delay finger foods, transition your baby onto nutritious finger foods from around six months old. Delaying the transition from purees to finger foods can lead to a refusal of foods which aren’t smooth and mushy.
* If your baby rejects a food such as broccoli or avocado, avoid sweetening the rejected food with fruit. Sweetening food often reinforces a baby’s affinity for sweet foods and doesn’t encourage them to enjoy different flavours. Continue to offer a food at least 16 times to a baby, every couple of days, before altering the flavour.
* For toddlers and older children, it’s imperative to ensure that they have the opportunity to be exposed to new food. It’s common to see repetitive eating – the same food on offer daily, and this doesn’t help t evolve a child’s acceptance of diverse flavours.
* Get your children involved in the kitchen from as early as age one. Encouraging your baby to play with dough or wash a carrot is beneficial. Later on, it’s beneficial to foster an enjoyment of cooking and baking delicious and healthy meals. This is one of the best ways to counteract fussy eating.
* Be a role model. Let your kids see you eating and enjoying your food. This means eating together.
* Stay away from kiddie menus, as they’re all the same and cater for the child who only wants very plain food like chicken nuggets, chips, pasta and tomato-based sauce. Get into the habit of ordering from the main menu – you can always go entree size to reduce costs.
* Widen their food repertoire slowly. You might be a foodie, but you can’t expect them to accept complex foods right away. Introduce something new each week and praise them when they take to it.
When you are breastfeeding, Mandy (pictured) said it’s a good idea to include a diverse range of flavours in your diet, especially cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens
Breastfeeding is another opportunity to influence the tastebuds of your unborn child.
Mandy explained: ‘If a lactating mother’s diet contains a diverse range of flavours, then it can impact on a baby’s taste preferences and ensure they are more accepting of certain flavours’.
She recommends eating foods from all the taste groups at this stage, including plenty of vegetables – especially leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables.
‘Babies through to adults have a natural affinity for sweet and salty foods,’ Mandy said.
‘We need to expose them to sour food, which is why the leafy veg can be helpful.’
She also recommends ditching the kiddie menu and making sure your kids (pictured with Mandy) eat from the grown-up menu; this will expose them to new and exciting flavours
WHEN INTRODUCING SOLIDS
The last point at which you can influence your baby’s tastebuds is when you are introducing solid foods to their diet.
‘Forget about just focusing on kiddie foods likes pizza, pasta and cheese and Vegemite sandwiches, and include fresh ingredients like steamed, baked and raw veggies with every meal,quality protein including meat, chicken, fish and legumes, wholegrains, healthy fats and fresh fruits,’ Mandy said.
‘If your baby rejects a food such as broccoli or avocado, avoid sweetening the rejected food with fruit. Sweetening food often reinforces a baby’s affinity for sweet foods and does not encourage them to enjoy different flavours.
‘I always advise parents to continue to offer food at least 16 times to a baby, every couple of days, before altering the flavour. This helps them to adjust to a particular flavour.’
Mandy Sacher is the author of The Wholesome Child. For more information, please click here.