How healthy are the children is so much dependent on their mothers, at least in the early years! While a mother cannot control to an extent what the kids after a certain age, but she can do a whole lot of things to make sure that the kid eats healthy stuff, inside the home and even outside it.
I remember once I asked my two year old to not eat chocolates straight out of the fridge. She was resistant to the idea but gave in. Once she caught me doing the same. I had opened a Pandora’s Box by doing this. She asked me, “Why can you eat cold chocolates and not me?” she continued, “why didn’t you let me eat cold chocolates,” et cetera.
Being a mom, I am the role model for my daughter. I had to follow the rules that I had set for her. And such rules are most applicable when it comes to food, health and nutrition. Kids have superb memory. They remember our mistakes very well. Why can I eat noodles and not my tot? Why am I allowed to eat ice creams at night but not she? And why does she have to eat fruits for breakfast whereas I can gobble up a cheese sandwich?
Kids try to emulate us in many things, in fact, almost all the things. If I do not listen to her or pay heed to her mumblings, she tries to do the same. If I am checking messages on my cell phone, she uses an imaginary phone to message her friend. And if I am entertaining myself by talking to a friend, she wants to watch the television too to stay occupied. As a mother, we need to set good habits in our kiddos, right from the beginning.
There are so many things that we can do as a mother to make sure that our kids develop healthy eating habits all their life. Many mothers have an opinion that kids will understand the difference between good and bad, only once when they are old enough to do so. However, most of the habits are formed till the kids reach three years of age. Even the body of a child gets accustomed to the food habits by that age. Hence, whatever changes that you want to do needs to be done before that.
These are the best nine months to inspire your baby. There will be no resistance from your child. As a mother, you need to eat a variety of foods so that the fetus not only gets nutrition but gets to taste different things. Even research suggests that babies might develop food habits as early as the pregnancy phase.
The taste of what pregnant mothers eat gets transferred to the amniotic fluid. Hence, the baby gets to taste the food. And this, in most cases, is reflected in the eating preferences of the baby in the early years. If a pregnant mother has had more of apples, the baby prefers apple flavored foods in the beginning. This may or may not be the same for all babies. But, as a mother, it is better that you do not take chances and introduce your fetus to a variety of interesting foods. So that the baby develops good and healthy eating habits once he starts eating on his own. If you do like pungent and spicy foods, you should eat the same throughout the pregnancy if your health provider permits. This will help the fetus to adapt to such foods.
When I was pregnant, I ate everything – even those things that I was not fond of. Thankfully, my daughter is not a picky eater. One interesting thing that I noticed is that I used to skip fruits as that time I was not very fond of them. And my daughter makes faces when I serve fruit to her now. Further, I avoided sweets and confectioneries to avoid unnecessary weight gain. My daughter too is not much fond of sweets. This might be a coincidence too.
While some say that pregnancy is a difficult phase, I will contradict completely. For me, it was the breastfeeding phase. During pregnancy, I could make informed choices in spite of a plethora of advises that I used to get on a daily basis. However, I did not have that much time and energy when I had the baby. So, if Aunt A told me that do not eat carrots during pregnancy, I obliged and carried on. And when Aunt B told me to eat carrots and avoid tomatoes, I changed my diet again, without thinking much. No, I never made Aunt A and Aunt B meet to discuss this. However, now that my baby is older and after meeting many moms belonging to different cultures, I have understood the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of the diet of a breastfeeding mother. Just like pregnancy, mothers should eat a variety of healthy foods even during the breastfeeding phase.
Yes, it is true to an extent that the babies get flavored milk if you eat something different. But another truth is that some babies like the specific flavored milk that they get. So, if you had garlic in the lunch today, then your baby might like to drink more of that milk rather than avoid it altogether. Further, if you are avoiding something just because it causes gas or other such problems, then you might be wrong. There could be many reasons of a bloated stomach of your baby, rather than just the food you had. Hence, keep calm and keep eating whatever you like. This way, your baby might eat all the things that you prepare instead of choosing a particular food group that you introduced to him during breastfeeding.
Six Month Onward
Continue breastfeeding your baby and also introduce other types of foods. While you introduce a variety of foods now, you can also make sure that you set a schedule for your baby as well. Make sure that you alternate between breastfeeding and regular food. If possible, feed other foods to the baby while the rest of the family is eating. The baby will be inspired to eat then. Even you can eat together with the baby. Your baby will be glad to see you eating a variety of stuff. Include colorful foods in your diet. Do not switch on television or other similar gadgets while the baby is eating. If he is not eating, he might not be hungry. Try after a while. Eating food does not require any kind of entertainment.
Toddlers are picky eaters, so say most of the moms. However, it is on you whether you desire to give such a label to your kid. If you have made sure that your baby eats healthy and a variety of foods, right from the beginning, then your toddler will not be a picky eater at all. Toddlers find the food interesting if it is presented well. Do not give the same foods on a daily basis. If you serve a fruit pancake today, then give porridge tomorrow, in spite of the fact that your baby will gobble up the pancake even today. Do not make pancakes dull for your baby by serving them every day. Make a point to eat meals together as a family. Let your baby eat by herself. Introduce finger foods at this stage that she can munch on. Give a complete meal to your baby.
If your baby has started going to pre-school, then you might be a mom who wonders what to give for tiffin on a regular basis. While you make sure to fill in the box with foods that your baby will finish it up without a fuss, also introduce other foods that she does not eat. For instance, if today you have given some cookies in the box, tomorrow team up the cookies with some fruits. When your kid returns from school, you can tell him that you had cookies and fruits for lunch. He will be happy that both of you had the same meal. What you eat as a mother reflects on the baby as well. When you eat a healthy meal, your baby is inspired to do so. If you focus more on junk food, your baby will be automatically directed towards it.
Pre-Teens and Teens
Your little kid has all grown up. She might have made friends belonging to other cultures and backgrounds in school. The food habits of different cultures vary. Hence, your teen is introduced to such foods through her friends. Together with this, your teen also gets introduced to junk food, which you might have kept her away from.
If you ask your teen to stay away from such foods strictly, then she might revolt or hide the fact that she had the food with her friends. Instead of this, try to make her understand the differences between the nutrition present in the junk food and healthy food. Not all junk food is unhealthy. Ask her to make informed choices.
You can go out together and make her learn how to choose what in certain situations. This way, your teen will learn what food is healthy and what is not. If you like cooking, you can learn what her friends’ mothers are preparing. This way, your kid will not get bored of the same type of food and taste. Many families make the same food but add different spices. This changes the taste of the food to a great extent. You can even learn to prepare junk food but by adding nutrition to it. You can add lots of veggies in the noodles or prepare whole wheat pasta at times. Your teen will be happy to eat such stuff at home.
If you are not able to do a whole lot of stuff for your babies, then just make sure that you eat good and healthy meals. You are a living inspiration for your baby, right from day one. What you eat and do will reflect on your baby. Make sure you set a good example. Everything else will just follow.