From the very start Research is showing that your baby has been developing their tastebuds and ‘palate’ since they were in your womb. All based on the foods that you were eating when you were pregnant! Yes, so long ago.. This is just the start of how your child’s palate gets shaped.
Breastfeeding If you happen to breastfeed, your child’s palate gets further shaped, depending on what you eat. The flavours in breastmilk change accordingly, whereas the flavours in formula remain the same.
Introducing solids When it comes time to introducing solids, this is already the time to start thinking further on shaping your baby’s palate. Sure you can start with rice cereal but you can also think outside the box. Fruit and vegetables can give much more flavour and good nutrients. I am yet to come across actual evidence that says fruit creates a ‘sweet tooth’ but vegetables probably have better nutrients for a little one, so maybe err on the side of caution and push the veges! Talk is even out there as to whether an ideal first food (or in the first few months) would be avocado with the good fats and not so much a ‘fodder’, like rice. (Any grains early on can also irritate the gut and lead to allergies and intolerances). Treating them like a new food, you could introduce a herb, spice or garlic closer to 12 months. If you have been eating these yourself in the pregnancy, chances are your baby will already be accustomed to the taste of them.
Keeping it going The best thing about feeding your baby is, you can get them used to any food! Foods you love, foods you dislike, foods you wish you would tolerate more. Again, think outside the box, babies all around the world are being introduced to very different foods than just rice cereal. One website that dedicates itself to this is http://www.homemade-baby-food-recipes.com. A baby’s palate is such a blank canvas, that as long as you keep up exposure to the food, they have the potential to be a healthy eater that appreciates a wide variety of foods. But it does all rely on you, providing the food. Yes, some responsibility! Did you know a child’s food preferences are shown to reflect their parents’ food preferences? But you can introduce them to a food that you might not eat. Have a look through the supermarket for something that you and the family could try together.
The nasties These days, everyone is talking about how food is linked to later obesity, disease, cancer and even problematic behaviour in childhood. Teaching your child to avoid these is easiest if started early, before they realise they are being ‘healthy’.
Salt – the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council has started showing how many children are consuming up to five times the recommended daily salt intake. This can lead to future kidney issues and high blood pressure.
Sugar – has no nutritional value whatsoever to a child. And considering their tastebuds don’t have to know any different, sugar is only adding to risks of childhood obesity, tooth decay, heart disease, type II diabetes, depressed immunity, just to get the list going!
Food additives – include colouring, sweeteners and preservatives. All of these are starting to be linked with many symptoms, health issues and even suggestions they are changing our DNA. www.fedup.com.au is a great place to start to see that symptoms from bedwetting to ADHD type behaviours to anger, depression and sleep issues are all very real and relate directly to food additives.
Where to start
- Start looking at labels of everything you give your baby/child.
- The fresher the better. How much processed food does your child consume (which adds in more salt, sugar and additives)?
- If an ingredient doesn’t sound like a real food (eg. thickener, stabiliser, acidity regulator, glucose syrup), see if you can think of a better alternative.
- Compare brands. For example, Sakata plain rice crackers have no preservatives or other additives. Every other brand and flavour does.
- Remember, your baby doesn’t know (or care) about what they are missing out on. Their ‘treats’ might be pasta and fresh pesto or some banana with cinnamon, not necessarily jelly, ‘fruit’ bar or cake.
- Teach a young child that some foods help their body to grow, some are just for fun. Fun foods are only eaten on certain occasions (determined by your family).
- You provide the healthy food, your child decides which and how much they will eat.
Something to keep in mind : the majority of your child’s preferences in tastes will be developed by 4 years of age….
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