Susie Burrell

‘your food, your body, your life’

The baby feeding secrets for healthy food habits – tricks from a kid’s nutritionist

This is a sponsored post, brought to you by Australian Bananas.

The early experiences babies and toddlers have with food plays a powerful role in shaping their food habits long term. Not only are the early years important to ensure nutrient intake supports optimal growth and development, but the way parents and carers introduce new foods, and the way we respond to the cues given to us by small children when they are trying new foods all play a role in the development of food preferences. So here are some of the tricks and tips I can share from working with children and their families for more than 20 years.

1. Start with savoury

Human beings are programmed to seek out sweet foods – breast milk for example is exceptionally sweet but when it comes to introducing solid food to babies and feeding toddlers and children in general, too much sweet food can result in them rejecting savoury and neutral flavours, including vegetables, meat and fish. For this reason, not only is it important to introduce savoury, less sweet foods such as plain oats or rice cereal and vegetables before fruits, but also to continue a pattern of only offering sweet foods like yoghurt and fruit after the main meal of vegetables, grains and protein has been consumed.

2. Focus on nutrient rich options

Small children do not need a lot of food, which means that the focus of the food should always be on nutrient rich choices that tick the box on key nutrients including iron, calcium, dietary fibre and vitamins and minerals to support optimal growth and development. Think brightly coloured veges, lean meat and fish, dairy, wholemeal bread, oats and fresh fruits, such as nutrient rich bananas, as the base to their daily diet.

3. Use natural sweeteners

While we may be tempted to sweeten up our food with honey, fruit syrups or dried fruit, it is completely unnecessary to sweeten foods we offer to children. Rather they will get all the sweetness they need from fresh fruit and dairy foods without adding extra sugars. Also pay attention to the concentrated sugars that may be slipping into kids diets via fruit purees, juices, bars and dried fruits and ideally avoid these in favour of fresh fruit.

4. Keep it simple

It is common to hear the frustration of parents who have spent much time and energy preparing elaborate meals for children only to have it bluntly refused. The key thing for parents to remember is that small children (and even older ones) prefer plain, simple food – some pasta, a spoonful of peas, a few pieces of a ripe sweet banana. Keep the servings small and the offering simple and save your precious time.

5.  Know your healthy treats

Today we love to give our children treats – a treat when they are good, a treat after dinner and a treat for anything really. This equates to too many treats with research suggesting that Aussie toddlers are consuming as much as 30% of their energy from discretionary or ‘junk’ foods. An easy way to ‘treat’ kids minus the processed, sugary foods is to create your own tasty but healthy treats – frozen bananas dipped in a little chocolate or frozen fruit yoghurt cups as naturally sweet desserts, homemade mini muffins or banana bread in place of commercial cakes and biscuits and homemade snack bags with a few crackers, fruit bites and cheese can be just as appealing to small children but a whole lot more nutritious.

Recipe: Banana Mini Muffins

For ages 9 month and above

Makes 24

Ingredients

1 cup oats, blended

1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour

2 bananas, mashed

1 egg, beaten

100g butter, melted

1 cup milk

Method

1. Mix oats, flour, mashed banana into a bowl.

2. Combine egg, butter and milk and add to dry ingredients

3. Spoon mixture into 24 muffin tins.

4. Bake at 180C for 20 minutes or until cooked. Cool before serving.

Recipe: Banana Breakfast Bowl

For ages 9 months and above

Serves 1

Ingredients

1/3 cup baby rice cereal or oats

½ small banana, chopped

½ cup natural yoghurt

Handful of blueberries

Method

1. Combine oats with a little formula, breast milk or warm water.

2. Place in bowl alongside yoghurt and top with banana slices and berries.

Recipe: Tuna Mac and Cheese

For ages 9 months and above

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 tbsp. butter or olive oil

1 tbsp. flour

1 cup milk

¼ cup grated carrot

¼ cup grated zucchini

¼ cup corn kernels

1 cup cooked high fibre kids pasta

½ cup grated cheddar cheese

1 x 95g can tuna

Method

1. Heat the butter/oil in a pan over medium heat, add the flour and cook, stirring for 1 minute.

2. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the milk.  Return to the heat and cook, stirring, until the sauce boils and thickens.

3. Add the vegetables, tuna and macaroni and cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.  Stir in the cheese and cook until it has melted.