Rafferty's Garden Baby eating food at the dinner table

How to Get Your Baby to Love Eating at the Dinner Table

Posted in 10+ Months, 10+ Months Development, 12+ Months, 12+ Months Development, Appetite, Fussy Eating, Independent Feeding, Mum and Baby, Parent Know-How

We all know the value of family time and with today’s often hectic lifestyle, sitting down for a meal is an important ritual to maintain a close family bond. It's also a great way to catch up on the latest news, share the daily events and reconnect with your family after spending the day apart. The smallest members of the family need not miss out on this important event, either.

Teaching your bub to love eating food at the dinner table isn’t as hard as it sounds. Once you learn how your baby thinks and what their needs are, they will soon learn the importance of this family ritual. To share what I have learnt, I will take you through the ins and outs of infant eating and share my top tips to help your little ones fall in love with food.

Baby's eating habits

Understanding the key development stages in terms of infant feeding can help you understand your baby and create a routine which best suits your infant’s needs. Generally speaking, the key stages are:

  • 1 to 3 months: baby starts interacting with outside world e.g. smiling and following objects with eyes
  • 4 to 6 months: beginning of strong taste preferences development - try introducing a wide range of foods here
  • 7 to 9 months: baby more physically active, can cope with mash and harder solids and may start pointing to foods they like
  • 10 to 12 months: begins to feed self, speak, takes first steps; food rejection starts happening and infants start to imitate adult eating preferences
  • 12 to 36 months: continued social, physical and emotional development; predication of food preferences throughout life occurs around 24 months

Psychology of your baby's eating

We have all heard infants and toddlers learn a lot from what they observe, especially by grown-ups and this could not be truer when it comes to eating.

Specifically, infants look for guidance from parents for food selection and research has shown parent and child intake of foods/nutrients are generally correlated. Being a good role model when it comes to food doesn’t just stop at food selection; it's also how parents interact with their food. A study has shown infants interact more with a target object after watching an adult display neutral affect compared to negative affect toward the object.

Thus, making sure meals are served in a pleasant, distraction-free and safe environment as well as having a healthy and loving relationship towards food should assist your little to grow up learning to love food also.

What not to do

It's easy to develop unrealistic expectations out of love and concern - however, keeping in mind there is a physiological decrease in appetite that occurs between 1 and 5 years of age can help.

Furthermore, try to avoid using food to control behaviour as it increases the risk of children associating foods to alleviate emotional distress. Finally, don’t show over-the-top expression in regard to foods, try to remain neutral and let your bub develop their own preferences towards food.

To help lead by example and create meal times which the whole family can enjoy, here are my top tips:

Breakfast:

Starting the day right is as important for your baby as it is for the rest of the family. Try:

  • Making a big pot of porridge and topping with Rafferty’s Garden real yoghurt, offering a selection of flavours including apple, pear and cinnamon, banana, pear and mango, blueberries, banana and apple and watermelon, strawberries and apple it will be sure to appeal to even the fussiest of taste buds!
  • Homemade muesli or puffed amaranth topped with Rafferty’s Garden real yoghurt rich in live cultures, this provides a potent gut supportive breakfast combining fibre and probiotics (acidophilus and bifidus) important for supporting a healthy immune system
  • A smoothie using Rafferty’s Garden real yoghurt for a well-balanced quick breakfast
  • Slowing down with some scrambled eggs and avocado on sourdough toast, served as soldiers for bub

Snacks:

Snacking is an important time to make up for any meal pushed aside by bub and is a time to get extra nutrition in, try:

  • Rafferty’s Garden real yoghurt on the go as a nourishing wholefood snack. One pouch provides 15% of the calcium RDI for infants under 12 months, calcium is important for bone and teeth development and nervous system function, it also assists with sleep as a bonus!
  • Homemade buckwheat pikelets topped with Rafferty’s Garden real yoghurt
  • Sliced apple or pear dipped into Rafferty’s Garden real yoghurt – making food fun!
  • Mixing chia seeds and Rafferty’s Garden real yoghurt for a simple and delicious flavoured chia pudding, a great option as each Rafferty’s Garden pouch contains double the fruit content of most yoghurts on the market, real fruit is an important source of anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins and fibre!

Lunch & Dinner:

Lunch and Dinner are good avenues to offer variety to your little one’s plate. Swapping around proteins, vegetables, healthy fats and wholegrain carbohydrates will offer your little one balanced nutrition which they will be sure to enjoy as part of the family. Try:

  • Roast chicken or baked salmon (leftovers are great the next day) with a selection of simple steamed vegetables, including variety in terms of not only taste but colour and texture as your baby likes the use of their fingers to feel
  • Lamb and vegetable Bolognese with buckwheat pasta – can easily be pureed for infants if required
  • Simple pea and chicken risotto using a variety of vegetables – can also be easily pureed for infants if required
  • A vibrant coloured stir-fry with rice noodles, try keeping the vegetables chopped roughly so your little one can use their fingers

Overall

Teaching your baby to love eating at the grown-up table is a pleasurable experience, which the whole family can enjoy and be involved in. It just takes a little creativity and patience, keeping food interesting, varying textures and focusing on finger friendly food will help make your little one eventually be the last seeking to be excused!

 

Written by Zoe Bingley-Pullin

 

 

About the Author

About the Author: Rafferty’s Garden is a brand brought to life by our love of good food and by our belief in ensuring Australian babies get an amazing start to their food journey. .

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