Saturday, April 2, 2011

Healthy Eating from the Start

Here are some of Many Hands House's tips for raising healthy, adventurous eaters, right from the start.

  • Breastfeed! For at least two years, if not three. This will make sure your baby gets all the calories and nutrition needed, plus you'll avoid all those nasty allergies later.
  • Don't introduce solid food until your baby has reached these three milestones: can sit up unaided, has a tooth, and tries to grab the food and shove it in their mouths. Usually a bit after 6 months.
  • Avocado and tofu are the best baby foods. (Around 8 months old!)
  • Be a good example and eat healthy food yourself! (Remember, they're grabbing it off your plate. And the foods flavor your breast milk.)
  • Only offer water to drink. 
  • Eat spicy food when your pregnant and breastfeeding, and don't be afraid to let your toddler try moderately spicy food - we prefer to call it "flavorful".
  • No sugar or extra salt. Your child should have no idea that white bread exists. 
  • Serve children a salad just before the meal. Even babies. I stir up raw spinach greens with flax oil and nutritional yeast for Méabh. She loves to suck the oil off the leaves.
  • A toddler will eat a nutritionally balanced diet if left to their own devices and offered only healthy food. Although it looks like they are only eating bananas, eventually it will even out. I promise.
  • A person needs to be offered a new meal 3 times before they feel comfortable with it. The first time I served steamed artichokes (20 years ago) Tabitha wrinkled her nose. And again the second time. But then.... ask Tabitha how she feels about steamed artichokes now.
  • When serving a complex meal to a toddler, separate the items. For example, I like my Matar Paneer all mashed up. But let a toddler explore the individual flavors. Peas, rice, tofu, cilantro, sauce for dips.
  • Have the kids help you cook early on. I let my children use a sharp knife when they lose their first tooth. This helps when they get older, because they can start making you fancy dinners!
  • Play restaurant. My children love this game. We make big chalkboard menus, and design a fancy, healthy, balanced meal. We have candles, tablecloths, music, the works.
  • Now and then let the food pantry run low, and play what I call "Rat Day" ( I love pet rats. You can call it whatever you like.) Try to make fun foods with whatever you can find. Who knew that canned beets warmed up with cracked pepper could be so delicious?
  • Don't eat too much. People often eat when they're bored. Bored is good for you.
What tips do you have for rearing healthy adventurous eaters?


  1. thanks! I appreciate all the tips- especially about when to introduce solids. Lincoln stopped breastfeeding earlier than i would have liked. Eden is still going strong, and I hope to keep it that way as long as possible. Also, salad for a baby!?! Who knew? you. :)

  2. Melanie, I love these! We do these with our kids, even though we got them when they were 4 and 6. It took about a year for them to really adjust, but now, 3 years later the oldest prefers jalapenos on her paninis. Our middle still likes to eat everything separate - she won't eat a casserole to save her life, but she will eat everything that's in the casserole separate, and since I make everything from scratch it is really easy to just leave out a spoonful of everything for her to eat separately. And all the kids LOVE to cook. I just don't give them any other option, when that's all that's in the house, that's all they can eat.
    It's also funny how quickly the hunger fades when you figure it takes you at least 1/2 hour to fix it. :)

  3. I loved the tips. My son is a no-thank-you boy but coming around. I just keep offering him the same foods without pressure and he often comes around. As to breast feeding preventing allergies... wish it were true. My daughter nursed until she weaned herself at 1 year and has bad allergies and a friend had to stop nursing her baby because she was so allergic to milk. But breast is absolutely best. Just not the miracle it's made out to be sometimes. Love the title of your blog by the way!

  4. Thank you for reading and commenting on my blog!
    I don't want to sound argumentative, but when it comes to breastfeeding, I need to set things straight. It is EXTREMELY RARE for a baby to be allergic to it's mother's breast milk. I often think it's something doctors say when they don't know what else to say. The disease galactosemia occurs in about one in 85,000 births. This disease would be been diagnosed in the PKU test, which is state mandated at 3 days old.
    It's more likely that the baby was allergic to something in it's mother's diet. Cow's milk is a common allergen.
    Also, many studies have shown that one of the best ways to prevent allergies and asthma is to breastfeed exclusively for at least 6 months and continue breastfeeding long-term after that point.
    Breastfeeding can be helpful for preventing allergy by:
    1. reducing exposure to potential allergens (the later baby is exposed, the less likely that there will be an allergic reaction),
    2. speeding maturation of the protective intestinal barrier in baby's gut,
    3. coating the gut and providing a barrier to potentially allergenic molecules,
    4. providing anti-inflammatory properties that reduce the risk of infections (which can act as allergy triggers).
    I think what's really important there is the part about exclusively breastfeeding for at least 6 months. Introducing solids too early introduces allergens.
    And as for being a miracle, a new study found that 900 babies and billions of dollars would be saved each year if 90% of U.S. women breast-fed their babies for the first 6 months of life. If that were a car seat statistic there would be a law.
    Again, thank you for visiting!


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