After posting about the ridiculous amount of food my 11 month old baby consumes for breakfast, I had a number of comments and questions about what I feed him and how I get him to eat such nutritious food. Besides the fact that I make delicious food that no one can resist (wink wink, nudge nudge), I do have a few tips I can pass along that may be helpful. And since I’m feeling generous, I’ll also share a super easy pancake recipe that’s packed with nutrients (which came with a little help from my mama friend).
Tip #1: Try Everything
Can you believe that I had never tried a kiwi until I bought one for my baby?! How is that even possible?! It’s likely because my parents never bought them, so they were just never on my radar! For many of us, it’s often difficult to get out of our comfort zone when it comes to food, but it’s important to introduce as many types of foods and flavours as possible. This includes adding different spices to foods, and also including strongly flavoured foods, such as salmon or onions. Nobody likes bland food, even babies, and yes, my 11 month old eats salmon and onions! Keep in mind that children who are raised in families who eat a wide variety of foods are actually more likely to eat a variety of foods themselves!
Tip #2: Keep Your Comments to Yourself
My husband struggles with this one…a lot! Just because our little ALWAYS eats his broccoli last, doesn’t mean he doesn’t like it, or that he won’t eat it, because he ALWAYS eventually does! These little humans listen to everything we say…EVERYTHING, and if what they hear from you is that they don’t like broccoli, they’re probably going to think they don’t like broccoli. See how this works?! Try to steer clear of comments regarding what your child likes and doesn’t like, and allow them to make their own conclusions!
Tip #3: Try and Try Again!
Even though my little guy immediately puked the first two times he tried eggs, I kept at it! And yes, the third time WAS the charm! It is important to keep in mind that it can actually take eight to ten exposures to a new food before it is accepted. Trying the same food different ways, or served with other foods can be helpful, so try and try again!
Tip #4: Make Food FUN
If making broccoli look like trees standing in a pile of hummus will get your child to eat it, what’s a few extra minutes to make the plate of veggies look like a forest?! Kids like things that are fun. Period. So making food fun makes it more likely that your child will get excited about food. Allowing kids to help in the kitchen with age appropriate tasks can also make them more excited to try new foods! Our little guy isn’t even a year old yet, and he loves to sit at the island and watch us cook, and yes, also try to grab everything within arms reach!
Tip #5: Allow Independence
Kids are messy, you knew that getting into this (is what I try to remind myself of), so let them explore. If it means a few extra pieces of food end up on the floor because they weren’t spoon fed their entire meal, then get a dog! 😉 Allowing your child some independence in choosing from options on their plate is important to their development, and bonus, it leaves your hands free to eat your meal while it’s still warm!
Tip #6: Never Force
Children have an innate ability to regulate their intake, meaning they will only eat what their body needs. Unlike adults, children will not eat more than what their body actually requires in terms of energy, but this innate ability can be altered by external factors such as forcing a child to clean their plate, or to eat a meal because it’s time to eat. Allow your child to use his/her own internal cues and decide for him/herself when they are hungry or full.
Tip #7: Hide the Goods
Sometimes, it must be done. Hide those extra nutrients wherever and whenever you can. Sprinkle some hemp hearts on peanut butter toast, blend up some veggies to make a sauce for noodles, or hide spinach in these super easy nutrient-dense pancakes:
two large handfuls of spinach
cinnamon (I’m not going to lie, I didn’t measure)
coconut oil (or cooking oil of choice)
peanut butter (optional)
hemp hearts (optional)
Mash banana and add egg and cinnamon, mixing together until combined.
Add spinach to a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add to banana/egg mixture.
Heat pan on low and add a small amount of coconut oil. Pour approximately 1/4 cup of the mixture per pancake to the pan. Cook until the pancake has solidified, and flip to cook the opposite side.
Top with peanut butter and hemp hearts, or other topping of choice. Serve with fresh fruit and enjoy!
Information adapted from Nutrition Through the Life Cycle 5th Ed., JE Brown