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PLAYING: Helping your little one love good food—for life!

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Helping your little one love good food—for life!

Perhaps one of your most important jobs as a parent is to be a good role model for your baby, particularly when it comes to healthy eating. But just how much of an impact does what you eat and drink now have on your little one’s future?

3 mins to read Dec 29, 2021

The benefits of being a healthy role model  

  1. Your baby is more likely to eat a variety of healthy foods—fruits and vegetables, lean meats, whole grains—if they see you eating them too.  
  2. Awakening their taste buds to the flavours of fruits and vegetables now means there’s a greater chance they’ll continue to eat them when they’re older. 
  3. If your little one sees you trying and enjoying new foods, they may be tempted to give them a try too.  
  4. By setting an example and drinking water with every meal, your baby will be more inclined to do the same.   
  5. According to research, when one-year-olds watch and learn from their mothers’ healthy-eating habits they are more likely to eat vegetables more often when they are two years old.

Room for improvement

  1. Toddlers consume more sugar-sweetened beverages if their parents drink similar beverages. 
  2. Serving fast foods can increase your baby's intake of salt, and decrease their intake of certain nutrients, such as calcium. 
  3. Research suggests that the types of snacks you eat is linked to what your baby will eat. So demonstrate moderation and also eat a variety of healthy foods every day. 
  4. Your baby is less likely to eat vegetables if you are not eating them either.   
  5. If your baby never sees you drinking water, they may not learn to like water themself. 

How to kickstart a lifetime of healthy-eating habits

Setting the best example for your baby is sometimes easier said than done. Follow these helpful tips for what behaviours to model and those to avoid at the dinner table.

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Do serve a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables every day, including at least one fruit or vegetable at each eating occasion. Let your baby choose from a selection. 

Don’t get stuck in a rut of only serving foods you know she likes.

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Do offer baby or toddler sized portions of a variety of healthy foods. Let them decide how much they wants to eat and offer them more if they show signs that they’re still hungry. 

Don’t put pressure on them to eat one ‘one more bite’ as this can lead them to eat when they are not hungry, being less interested in food, and being fussier about food when they’re older.  

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Do prepare the same meal for everyone at the table. The foods you choose to offer should include some that you know your baby will enjoy. If there is something new as well, it is a chance for them to try it. There is no need to prepare a separate, special meal for your baby. You can always set a portion of healthy foods from the family menu aside for your baby, which you cut up into small bites and leave free of added salt or sugar.  

Don’t just offer pureed foods to your little one. By this age, they need to experience a range of different tastes and textures.

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Do keep a bowl of fruit on the table so your baby can easily point at something she’d like to eat.  

Don’t use food as a reward for good behaviour. Bribing your baby with a sweet treat for finishing their vegetables may mean they’ll always come to expect this.

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Do let your baby hear you say "I'm full" and then see that you have stopped eating. Teach your baby how to express that they’re full—with words or gestures—and then respect what they tell you, even if they haven’t finished everything on their plate. 

Don’t worry too much if your baby doesn’t eat much at one meal. If they’re hungry, they will make up for it at the next one.

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Do try to introduce one new fruit or vegetable at least once a week to family mealtimes and experience a journey of new tastes together.  

Don’t give up! Just because your baby didn’t like something the first time around, it doesn’t mean they won’t like it in the future.

Sources

  • Black MM, Aboud FE. Responsive feeding is embedded in a theoretical framework of responsive parenting. J Nutr 2011; 141(3): 490-4.

  • Dattilo AM Programming long-term health: Effect of parent feeding approaches on long-term diet and eating patterns. In: Early nutrition and long-term health, mechanisms, consequences and opportunities. Ed., Saavedra and Dattilo, Elsevier, 2017: 471-95.

  • Gregory JE, Paxton SJ, Brozovic AM. Maternal feeding practices predict fruit and vegetable consumption in young children. Results of a 12-month longitudinal study. Appetite 2011; 57(1):167-72.  

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