Baby spitting squash all over? It's funny the first time. But it gets old fast. Here's how to get baby eating, and loving, healthy fruits and veggies.
Tips to tempt tiny taste buds with fruits and veggies
As a mom, you know fruits and vegetables are essential for your healthy, growing baby. Eating all that natural goodness not only provides essential nutrients for growing minds and bodies, it helps establish a lifetime of healthy eating habits and can even ward off childhood obesity and disease according to experts.
But try explaining those important nutritional facts and daily diet recommendations to your baby, and you'll likely get the same outcome as reaching the end of a good bedtime story (yawn).
Every mom's biggest food challenge is making sure tots get enough variety along with all the necessary vitamins and minerals to support strong growth. After all, baby cannot live on banana alone!
Luckily, most children nearing or at their one-year birthdays love noshing on produce, both for the taste and the textures. Fruits especially are the first to get all your baby's love since they're naturally sweet.
Still, no matter how much kids at this age enjoy dining on field-grown fare, there will likely be some picky-eater issues to overcome. In fact, most children go through a persnickety stage as food preferences change over time. And when it happens, it can present the ultimate food fight.
Before you throw in the towel, grab an apple and chew on these ideas for helping your baby transition from finicky to food fanatic.
It's not easy being green! That's why repeated exposure to new veggies is one of the best ways to get your baby to like them. And persistence pays off! It can take as many as 10 tries before your baby accepts a new food, so don't give up!
If your youngster shows no interest in broccoli today, try putting it on the menu next week, and the week after. The more times you offer it, the more familiar it becomes, and the greater the chances it will be gobbled up eventually.
When your child finally does try something new, don't go by facial expressions to judge the likeability factor. Research shows that babies' facial expressions aren't necessarily an indication that they dislike a certain food. Instead, those peculiar looks can simply be a reaction to flavors. Give your baby repeated opportunities to taste a variety of vegetables (and fruits). If he makes a negative facial expression but continues to eat, that's a positive sign.
When baby is really picky, get inventive, at least for the short term. A few stealth-health strategies can give meals a vitamin-rich boost. Try mixing steamed cauliflower into mashed potatoes, or blend pureed, cooked carrots into mac and cheese.
In general, sauces, dips and mashed servings can be the optimum way to dish up healthy fare. A tasty hummus is a nutritious choice for dipping crackers. Well-cooked, soft-skinned beans such as peas, lentils and pintos can also be mashed to perfection, making them even more palatable for little palates.
Tales from the food file. Food allergies can be a realistic concern for parents. Tara played it safe with baby Bree. "I introduced foods one at a time, keeping at least three to four days in between in case any allergic reactions surfaced. Thankfully, none did, but if they had, I could have immediately identified the culprit."
Fresh, frozen and from the farm
Some moms prefer to buy locally grown, organic produce. Not only does this reduce a child's exposure to pesticides, but organic lovers say that the flavors can be more pronounced, further encouraging a baby's taste for fresh foods.
Regrettably, fresh — as in freshly picked from the tree or plucked from the ground — sometimes isn't a feasible year-round option. Enter frozen veggies, which can be as nutrient-packed as their fresh counterparts.
In fact, the freezer can be a mom's trusty sous chef. Because blending and pureeing fresh produce can be a time-consuming process for time-starved parents, why not prepare large batches and then freeze in small, individual-sized servings? The same holds true for chopped, cooked veggies.
Tales from the food file. Mom Lori says freezing veggies in small containers is especially helpful when she's trying to reintroduce a new food every few days to 1-year-old Dillon. "I just grab a serving from the freezer, thaw, and bon appetit! It keeps me from reaching for something less healthy when I'm working against the clock."
Go bananas, and beyond
Fruit certainly has its advantages as a super food. Kids love the taste and it's easy to tote along — an especially handy feature during this active "grazing" stage. That's when kids are on the constant move and into finger foods, which makes bite-sized fruit snacking perfect as for on-the-go solutions.
If you find yourself stuck in an apples and bananas rut, why not go exotic? Try some kiwi, mango or papaya. Peeling and tasting out-of-the-ordinary fruits can be a delicious way to have fun with your baby. Just saying the words satsuma and kumquat can make a kid go all giggly! If it's that much fun to say, how much more fun will it be to bite into? As with any new foods, always be on the alert for potential allergic reactions.
To give your child the most positive, flavorful experiences, take advantage of fruit that's in season. A plump strawberry or juicy watermelon always tastes better in summer.
And don't forget avocados and tomatoes. Technically they're fruits, and powerhouse ones at that.
Avocados contain the highest protein content of any fruit. Its high-calorie content makes it one of the best produce choices you can feed your growing baby. Per serving, avocados have 3.5 grams of unsaturated fats, important for normal growth and development of the central nervous system and brain.
Savory tomatoes are rich in Vitamin C, potassium and fiber, and contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, which can help reduce the risk of cancer. Even better, lycopene absorption is actually greater when tomatoes are cooked, so sauce it up!
Color their world
From bright red tomatoes and deep green spinach, to dark purple eggplant and shiny yellow corn, your child will learn to eat what you eat. Be sure to enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables while also offering them to your little one. Together you can both enjoy a rainbow of colorful foods and reap the nutritious benefits of healthy eating.
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