Did you know that you can help prevent picky eating right from the start? Even though breast milk or infant formula provides most of the nutrition during the first year of life, exposing your baby to a variety of flavors, tastes, and textures increases the chances that they will consume a larger variety of foods later on.
Our feeding therapist, Alexandra Princiotta MA CCC-SLP explains the importance of offering a variety of textures and flavors to your baby, from the moment they start solids, in order to prevent picky eating later on in life.
Have you ever wondered why some babies and toddlers will eat packaged foods like store bought baby purées and crackers with no problem, but have a hard time with home made foods, fruits or vegetables? This is because children love to know what to expect. Packaged meals are predictable for a child. They always have the same shape, consistency, and flavor, besides they taste good. Fresh foods or homemade dishes, on the other hand, don't always taste or look the same. Fruits can be sweet or sour, come in different sizes, and can surprise a little one.
Studies show that babies that ate homemade pures around 6 months of age consumed a higher frequency of fruits and vegetables by age 7 (Coulthard, Harris & Emmett, 2010).
Homemade pures are better for learning about different tastes and textures compared to commercial baby foods. This is because commercial baby foods will taste the same, and feel the same each time.
Let’s talk about why this is not ideal.
Your baby’s brain is learning about taste every time they eat. The smell of foods combined with the sensation they feel in the mouth, creates the experience of taste. The more variety your baby consumes, the more their brains have an opportunity to learn about taste and textures. Therefore the goal should be to expose your baby to a variety of tastes and textures before the first year of life.
Let’s think about picky eaters for a moment. Often their preferred foods are commercial foods that always taste the same. Goldfish and store-bought crackers are safe for them because the taste and texture does not change. In contrast, consider blueberries. Some are sweet, some are tart, some are firm, some are soft; in one serving there are many different sizes. What about a homemade meal that you have made? Does it always taste exactly the same? Probably not and that’s ok! We want this variety for our babies right from the start. Instead of worrying about specific nutrients when your baby is learning to eat solids, focus on offering a large variety of foods. Variety garanties that they get a wide array of nutrients in their diet, as well as exposure to different flavors and textures.
Always make it a point to offer different colors, flavors, textures, and foods when feeding your baby. This will ensure that they lose sensitivities and create resilience when things don't always look the same during meal time.
By: Alexandra Princiotta, MA CCC-SLP
1 year ago