Parenting Against Picky Eating

Adjust Your Diet to Combat Picky Eating.

Want to avoid parenting a picky eater? Start with your own diet, says nurse researcher Mildred Horodynski of Michigan State University’s College of Nursing.

Your own eating habits—and whether you see your child as a picky eater has a huge impact on whether your toddler consumes enough fruits and veggies, according to her research in Public Health Nursing. The findings come out of the eating patterns of children up to age 3 in Head Start programs. The more fruits and veggies moms eat, the more children are likely to eat them too.

“What and how mothers eat is the most direct influence on what toddlers eat,” Horodynski said. This is important because a healthy diet early on sets the stage for a healthier life, Horodynski says. “Diets low in fruit and vegetables even at young ages pose increased risks for chronic diseases later in life.”

Be Persistent with Picky Eaters

Since baby typically eats what you eat, it’s important to introduce fruits and vegetables early. Experts say that can happen any time with pureed first foods after 6 month of breastfeeding. Start slow and don’t be discouraged—research shows you may need to offer your budding gourmand any particular food as many as 15 times before she determines whether she likes it or not.

The AAP recommends baby’s first foods be single-ingredient cereals, like rice cereal, that you can introduce with your breastmilk. Baby’s first solids should be iron-rich single-ingredient foods, such as pureed turkey, chicken or beef.

As baby gets the hang of chowing down on real grub—albeit at a nearly liquid consistency, you can also steam, mash or strain fruits and veggies such as pears, bananas, cooked carrots, peas, and sweet potatoes, for example, while you munch out on the matching solid with her.

To ensure your baby doesn’t have an allergic reaction to her new foods, introduce them 1 at a time, waiting several days before you add a new food to baby’s menu.

Prevent Picky Eaters

Age 0-6 Months 6-9 Months 9-12 Months
What she’s eating Breastmilk exclusively for at least 6 months; you may start single-ingredient pureed foods after 6 months but always nurse first, then offer other foods. Primarily breastmilk with pureed single-ingredient foods Primarily breastmilk with combined with pureed multi-ingredient foods
What to feed: At 6 months, pureed single-ingredient foods like bananas, applesauce, pear, sweet potato, or rice cereal mixed with breastmilk. Pureed mixed ingredient foods, like apple-banana sauce or pureed meats; increase the texture as she seems interested in it. Eat with baby to make it pleasurable. Pull baby’s high chair up to the dining table to feed her finely chopped finger foods like graham crackers, soft fruits, pasta, cheese, or fork-mashed foods from the family’s meal.

Parenting Against Picky Eating is part of our Feeding Your Baby section.


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Carolyn Davis Cockey, MLS, LCCE, is founding editor of Healthy Mom&Baby, Senior Director of Partnerships & Publications at AWHONN, and a Lamaze-certified childbirth educator in Sarasota, FL.

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