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9-12 Months: Exploring New Tastes - Healthy Family Habits

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One of the best ways to introduce your baby to a variety of healthy foods and to discourage fussy eating is to encourage her to eat family food. So pull up her chair, and start encouraging healthy eating alongside the whole family.

Q: Does it matter if my baby has tastes of foods that aren’t recommended until later—such as a little of my biscuit with butter, or ice cream?
A: It is now believed that there is no value in delaying the introduction of allergenic foods beyond six months . Unless your little one has in the past shown a reaction to butter, milk, and all dairy products, as well as eggs, meat, and nuts, these foods can be introduced to your baby from around six months onward.

The most important thing is that your baby is given something on which he won’t choke, and that it is nutritious and healthy. Ice cream is not particularly healthy, unless you choose good-quality dairy brands, which may prove too rich for your baby, and are also very high in sugar. You can make healthier alternatives; freeze bananas , make fresh fruit popsicles, or add fruit purée to plain yogurt.

Q: Are there any staple foods that you would recommend we take with us when we go on a family vacation?
A: It’s always difficult to know what might be available when you head to different destinations, and it can help to have a few tried-and-tested, healthy food options on hand, particularly if you have access to a kitchen.

Rice and baby rice, as well as small pasta shapes, are a good start, because you can blend them with local fruits and vegetables to provide a nutritious and substantial meal. Look out for good-quality breads, and offer these with some dried fruit, fruit juice, local cheeses (as long as they are pasteurized), yogurt, and even nice cuts of meat or fish.

Sometimes little ones can be fussy, so if your baby has a favorite purée, bring it along in jarred form to save trouble if your baby refuses local foods. A few finger foods, such as rice cakes, boxes of dried fruits, and even healthy “snacks,” such as carrot or tomato snacks (usually found in the organic baby section), can help to eke things out if your baby really doesn’t like the taste of something she is offered. However, at the same time, use your vacation to introduce her to new foods, and try to encourage her to try new things.

Q: Is it too early to teach table manners?
A: Babies can learn rudimentary table manners, such as washing their hands before eating (part of the pre-dinner routine), sitting in their seats until the meal has finished (no more than 20 minutes for youngsters, or you will have a battle on your hands), and not throwing their food. That isn’t to say that they will adopt these “manners” instantly, but with constant repetition and reinforcement they will become a habit.
Q: My parents are continually offering “junk” food to my baby; how can I persuade them not to, particularly when he likes them?
A: Unfortunately, many foods that are considered to be “treats” also fall into the junk food category. Your parents are simply trying to please your baby, and to give him what they think will make him happy, and there is nothing wrong with that in principle. What you need to do is to explain that your baby is perfectly happy with healthy alternatives, such as rice cakes, dried fruits, yogurts, cheese, and home-made cookies, for example. If he doesn’t develop a taste for sweet, fatty, or salty foods in the early years, he’ll be less likely to demand them later on.

You could mention the fact that children offered inappropriate foods in the early days are more likely to develop unhealthy eating patterns that can lead to them being overweight. You could also save a few “healthy” treats to be offered only during periods when grandparents are around, making them that much more special. Try not to be too hard on your parents, though. If they see your little one infrequently, the odd naughty snack or meal will do him absolutely no harm.

Q: My baby wants chips, cookies, and sweets like her older siblings; how can I avoid giving in?
A: The best advice is to make sure your whole family is eating healthy foods. This may sound a bit extreme, but if the older ones become accustomed to choosing fruits, healthy cookies, rice cakes, cheese and yogurts (for example) as snacks, that is exactly what your little one will consider to be normal. I always believe that you should buy only what you want your children to eat. There is no point in complaining that they always eat chips and treats if that’s what they find in your cupboards. Choose your shopping carefully. Hungry kids will eat what is available, and although they may object at the outset, they will soon develop healthy eating habits.

Treat time

There is no reason why you can’t offer your baby a little of a particular treat, such as a fudge brownie, on special occasions, or when your older children are having treats. Perhaps you save dried fruit, a small carton of baby fruit juice, a miniature cheese, or yogurt-coated raisins for outings or other treat times. He’ll be satisfied if he thinks he’s getting something special.

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