By Charlotte Stirling-Reed

The subject of providing food for babies and toddlers invariably results in a minefield of challenges, opinions and even emotions – a bit like parenting itself to be honest.

I began my own blog and documenting my son’s feeding journey when he first started weaning as a way of helping parents navigate through all the confusion. I wanted to expose untruths, demystify the science and provide practical information and solutions on the WHAT the HOW and the WHY of feeding young children.

Anxiety around feeding:

One thing I’ve really leaned throughout our weaning journey is that many parents are confused and anxious when it comes to feeding babies and children – specifically when it comes to introducing solid foods.

However feeding babies and toddlers doesn’t need to be so challenging. One of the key things I try to promote is having fun with feeding kids and having fun with food in general.

Yes, of course WHAT they eat matters, but what also matters is the relationship that they build with food from an early age – encouraging children to love, enjoy and not be scared of foods is so important for their future relationship with it.

Feeding kids in practice:

It makes it much easier if you have a little one who eats well and enjoys his/her food – including veggies (!!), but that enjoyment actually all begins with their experiences around food and mealtimes in the early years, as well as the types of foods that children are given during these times.

We know from a vast amount of research that familiarity with a single food leads to its acceptance.  Research also tells us that children who are given a variety of foods from a young age are more likely to eat a variety of foods as they get older.

Two key elements I try to practise when feeding my son are:

– Allow him to enjoy and experience a variety of foods

And

– Become a role model as much as possible (after all, they learn it all from you!)

 

Getting the right nutrients in:

Often I speak to parents who are really fixed on getting the right amount of nutrients or calories into little ones’ diets. However to me, feeding little ones doesn’t need to be regimented or too complex. It’s about a general balance, exposing and enjoying a variety of foods every day and helping children to have a really healthy relationship with food.

It’s true however that getting a balance of foods onto children’s plates is good place to start. I try to think about foods in their food groups, and spread these out throughout the day for Raffy, so I know he’s getting a good mix of different macro and micronutrients – without having to get a calculator out. For example:

  • Wholegrains and starchy foods
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Protein and iron rich foods
  • Dairy foods

I also like to think outside the box when it comes to these food groups. Traditionally babies and children are given apples and bananas, but why not try figs and papaya too or, instead of carrots and broccoli add in some kale and aubergine to the mix. Even when it comes to starchy carbohydrates I like to experiment and offer buckwheat, couscous and quinoa along with the slightly more typical pasta, bread and rice. It’s all about experimenting, trying lots of different foods and letting your little one see you eating (and enjoying) a wide variety too.

6 Top Tips from Charlotte

1) Make mealtimes fun – if they have become a stressed and anxious time it wont help anyone to enjoy their food. Take a step back and try to relax and bring some fun and enjoyment to mealtimes.

2)Offer lots of variety – the more variety you offer, the more they will become familiar with a wide range of wonderful foods. Familiarity usually leads to acceptance.

3)Don’t give up – Remember that foods will be rejected by kids all the times. It doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t like them so avoid adding lots of food to the “wont eat” list too soon.

4)Listen to their appetite cues however – if they don’t feel like eating something one day, respect that they just don’t feel like it and don’t force it. Appetites will change day to day and week to week so try to go with the flow somewhat.

5)Role model some more.

6)Simply think balance and variety when you’re planning your little ones meals – this is the best way to make sure they are getting everything they need to grow and develop healthily.

 

Charlotte Stiring-Reed is a  is mum to Raffy and a registered nutrition consultant who specialises in maternal, infant and child nutrition. Charlotte has a wealth of experience working as a nutritionist in many sectors including the NHS, Commercial Companies, Local Authorities and Charities. You can also find her on instagram and twitter. 

Instagram @goodnessguru