When Can I Give My Baby Soy Milk and other Plant-Based Milks?

little child drinking soy milk

{Expert Guest Post for Love Child Organics: www.lovechildorganics.com} In last month's post I promised that today I’d talk about when to give baby soy milk and other plant-based milk alternatives.

In the last number of years there’s been an explosion of plant-based milks – soy, almond, oat, hemp, coconut, rice, quinoa, and more.  Many of us adults use them in our smoothies, on our cereal, and in our coffee. So it’s no wonder that parents are wondering when they can introduce them to their babies.

Recently in Canada, the Health Canada, the Canadian Pediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and the Breastfeeding Committee of Canada* provided some guidance around plant-based milks for babies and young children. They recommend waiting until 2 years for using soymilk as a replacement for breastmilk or formula and don’t recommend other plant-based milks (they didn’t give an age for introduction).

I haven’t seen any guidance from US organizations on introducing plant-based milks.

Personally, I find it difficult to give clear advice that I’m certain of. Here’s why:

  1. I believe that there are many healthy eating patterns – we don’t all need to be vegan, or vegetarian, or eat meat to be healthy. Many cultures around the world traditionally don’t include cows’ milk. And, many cultures do traditionally include cow’s milk. So I don’t see how we needs to or need not to introduce cows milk to babies’.
  2. We may use cow’s milk or any of these plant-based milks in similar ways (they’re wet and white). However, they are actually quite different foods. They each contain very different nutrients, such as fat, protein, vitamins and minerals. They aren’t equivalent substitutions for each other. So, it’s difficult to give one recommendation that covers so many different beverages.
  3. This is the first generation of kids where these milks have been widely available (soymilk has been widely available for the longest) so we just don’t have the evidence to see the long-term impact on kids’ health and growth.

That being said, if you’re not planning to introduce your baby to cows milk, here’s what I recommend:

  • Continue breastmilk or formula as the primary milk source until your baby is 2 years and older.
  • Introduce a wide variety of foods, so that your baby is getting the nutrition that they need from the foods that they’re eating – such as fat, protein, iron, other minerals, and vitamins.
  • Think of plant-based milks as a “big kid” food. In other words, serve them in an open/ lidless cup, not in a bottle. Offer them only very occasionally under 2 years of age. If your child is eating a good amount of a wide variety of solid foods, after 2 years of age (or be extra careful and wait until your child is 3 years old), slowly increase the frequency that you offer plant-based milks. Stay well under the limit of 3-4 cups per day (which is the recommended limit for cows’ milk).
  • At all ages, choose unsweetened, vitamin and mineral fortified plant-based milks. The “original”, vanilla and other flavoured varieties can have a lot of sugar.

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/recom/recom-6-24-months-6-24-mois-eng.php

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Vitamin D Kids - Sunshine and Beyond

vitamin D kids

{Guest post on Love Child Organics} All this sunshine that we’ve had lately has me thinking about Vitamin D. Vitamin D’s nickname is ‘the sunshine vitamin’ because our bodies make it from exposure to the sun. However, our bodies don’t make it when we wear sunscreen. So if you’re choosing to have your kids be sun safe, you need to rely on vitamin D kids from food and supplements. Our bodies also don’t make it at the latitude of Canada or the northern United States from September through March – even on a sunny day.

Vitamin D’s Role in Our Bodies

Vitamin D is involved in building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. You’ve also likely heard about how it’s being investigated by the scientific research community for a wide variety of other roles in our bodies. While there isn’t enough evidence yet of vitamin D’s involvement in all these other roles, the research strengthens the idea that we want to make sure that babies and kids (and us adults too) get the recommended amount of vitamin D.

Here are the current recommendations:

Age

Recommended Intake

Safe Upper Level

Birth to 6 months

400 IU

1000

6 to 12 months

400 IU

1500

1 – 3 years

600 IU

2500

4 – 8 years

600 IU

3000

9 – 70 years

600 IU

4000

Over 70 years

800 IU

4000

Pregnant + Breastfeeding

600 IU

4000

Vitamin D For Babies Less Than 12 months Old

Breastmilk is naturally low in vitamin D (yes, even if you’re taking vitamin D yourself). Therefore, if you’re breastfeeding your baby, it’s recommended that you give your baby 400IU of vitamin D drops every day.

Formula does have vitamin D in it. If your baby takes 1000mL (32ounces) of formula a day then you don’t need to give your baby vitamin D drops. If your baby takes less than 1000mL (32 ounces) of formula a day (for example, if you do both breastfeeding and formula), then it’s recommended that you give your baby 400IU of vitamin D drops per day.

Vitamin D - Kids and Teens

At 12 months, the recommendations increase to 600IU of vitamin D per day. This may be from a combination of food and vitamin supplements (e.g. drops, pills, gummies).

Vitamin D in Food

Vitamin D isn’t found in many foods. I have a number of the best sources of vitamin D listed below. Note that while fluid cows milk has vitamin D in it, most yogurts and cheeses are made with cow’s milk without vitamin D in it so they aren’t sources of vitamin D. However, some yogurts are starting to be made with vitamin D fortified cow’s milk. Read the labels to find out if the yogurt you like is made with vitamin D.

While many kids are happy to drink lots and lots of glasses of milk, this usually crowds out other foods resulting in an unhealthy balance and not enough of other important nutrients (such as iron). Because of this, it’s recommended that kids drink a maximum of 2 glasses of milk a day. Goat’s milk, soy milk, almond milk, and other alternative milks may or may not have vitamin D added to them. Read the labels to find out.

Food

How Much

Vitamin D

Cow’s Milk

1 cup

100 IU

Formula

1 cup (250mL or 4 oz)

100 IU

Fortified Soy Milk

1 cup

80 IU

Fortified Orange Juice

½ cup

45 IU

Egg Yolk

1

25 IU

Salmon, canned or cooked

75grams (2.5 ounces)

608 IU

Tuna, canned

75grams (2.5 ounces)

41 IU

Kids Vitamin D Supplements (Including Drops) 

Since sunshine and foods end up playing a small role in providing vitamin D, most kids need to continue to get vitamin D from a supplement.

The amount (i.e. number of drops) that you need to give your baby, child, or teen is different with the different types and brands of drops. Read the label on your package to find out how many drops you need.

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Why Not Both Purees and Baby Led Weaning (BLW)?

puree baby led weaning

{Guest post at Love Child Organics} I receive questions from many parents asking me whether they should use purees or finger foods (a method called Baby Led Weaning or BLW) as they start to introduce their babies to solid foods. I believe that there isn’t only one right way to start babies on solid foods. Why not use both purees and finger foods?

When introducing solid foods you’re achieving several goals:

  1. Meeting your baby’s nutrition needs.
  2. Providing the opportunity to learn eating skills.
  3. Minimizing the risk of choking.

All three of these can be achieved through offering your baby purees, finger foods, or a combination of both.

Further, I’ve been practicing long enough to have met babies with all different temperaments (personalities). Some are little independent souls who never accept being fed by a parent. Parents of these little ones need to have a ton of patience as their child learns how to pick up food and actually get it in her mouth. On the other hand there are babies whom I call “happy little outsourcers”. They figure out that their parents are much more efficient at getting food in their mouths and so they’re happy to sit back and let you spoon every bite into them. Most babies fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

I’ve also seen that babies catch onto the skills of eating finger foods at a variety of ages – typically somewhere between 6 and 10 months.  This isn’t surprising since there’s always a range of ages when babies reach any developmental milestone. Some babies roll over before others, some crawl before others, and some pick up finger foods before others.

In my opinion, what’s most important is to:

  • Provide a wide variety of healthy foods,
  • Include iron-rich foods (twice a day is a good frequency),
  • Follow your baby’s lead,
  • Match your technique to your baby,
  • Provide your baby with the opportunity to learn eating skills, and
  • Use techniques that you’re comfortable with.

The result: you’re teaching your baby to have a positive experience with food.

Click here to get more tips on nutrition for babies.

An Update on New Feeding Recommendations

Happy child. Guest post for Love Child Organics: http://www.lovechildorganics.com/blog/

Usually I answer a question from you – a member of the Love Child community. However, something noteworthy happened last month that I thought was worth writing about.

 

Quietly on a Friday last month, a joint statement from Health Canada, Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and Breastfeeding Committee for Canada was released called Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants: Recommendations from Six to 24 Months: Principles and recommendations for the nutrition of older infants (six to 12 months) and young children (12 to 24 months)

 

I was happy to see it finally be released because previously there were recommendations for 0 – 6 months and for 2 years and up, but nothing existed for Canadian parents for little ones between the ages of 6 months to 2 years. And, this is a time when so much changes and parents have so many questions! In addition, I was happy to see it be released because I had provided feedback on a draft version quite some time ago.

 

The group who developed this document reviewed the scientific evidence to develop guidelines for feeding our little ones. I wanted to share it with you in hopes that it will help cut through the mixed (and often conflicting messages) out there and help bust some persistent myths.

 

The overarching statement is:

“Breastfeeding - exclusively for the first six months, and continued for up to two years or longer with appropriate complementary feeding - is important for the nutrition, immunologic protection, growth, and development of infants and toddlers.”

 

There are 7 main points (and my comments on each):

  1. Breastfeeding is an important source of nutrition for older infants and young children as complementary foods are introduced.
    • I was happy to see this statement because blog that I wrote previously for my own website received a lot of attention when I busted the myth that breastfeeding once you’ve introduced solid foods only provides water.
  2. Supplemental vitamin D is recommended for infants and young children who are breastfed or receiving breastmilk.
    • Yes, it’s recommended that you continue with vitamin D drops even after you’ve introduced solid foods.
  3. Complementary feeding, along with continued breastfeeding, provides the nutrients and energy to meet the needs of the older infant.
    • An important point that they make is that purees are a great texture. But do introduce lumpy textures before nine months. And, keep progressing through a wide variety of textures by 1 year.
  4. Responsive feeding promotes the development of healthy eating skills.
    • By “responsive feeding” they mean involving your baby as an active participant in eating. This means no sneaking in bites when they aren’t looking and no “here comes the airplane”. Feed your baby as much as they are interested in eating – which will sometimes be a lot and will sometimes be one bite.
    • They also mean the importance of providing your baby with the opportunity to learn eating skills. This includes learning how to self-feed with finger foods and learning how to drink from an open (lidless) cup.
  5. Iron-rich complementary foods help to prevent iron deficiency.
    • Offer iron-rich foods several times each day including meats, meat alternatives, and iron-fortified baby cereal. Choose a variety of these foods that your family eats.
  6. Foods for older infants and young children must be prepared, served, and stored safely.
    • This refers both to avoiding choking hazards and avoiding food poisoning.
    • An important point made here is to not leave kids unsupervised while eating. I’d add the point that kids shouldn’t eat while driving in the car, running around playing, etc because of the choking hazard.
  7. From one year of age, young children begin to have a regular schedule of meals and snacks, and generally follow the advice in Canada's Food Guide.
    • It’s likely not news to you that they recommend minimal sugar, salt, juice, and sugary drinks.
    • I love that they go on to mention how important parents are as healthy eating in role models!

 

While it’s written in language directed to health professionals, you can check out the recommendations for yourself at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/recom/recom-6-24-months-6-24-mois-eng.php

 

Will Starting Solid Foods Make My Baby Sleep Through the Night?

will feeding my baby solid foods make them sleep through the night? {Guest Post at Love Child Organics} Exhausted parents often ask me: “Will starting my baby on solid foods make her sleep through the night?” I understand why Moms and Dads (desperate for some sleep) grasp on to this myth. However, it is a myth. Feeding your baby solid foods won’t make your baby sleep through the night.

Does Starting Solid Foods Make Baby Sleep?

It’s true that some babies start sleeping for longer stretches through the night at about the same time that they start solid foods. But it’s not that the solid foods have caused the sleeping. It’s that for many babies, the developmental stage when we start to feed them solid foods coincides with the developmental stage when they start sleeping for longer periods of time. Sorry exhausted Moms and Dads, it’s not the solid foods causing longer sleep.

While I’m at it busting myths related to starting solid foods, I’ll take the opportunity to address a couple more.

Do Big Babies Need Solid Foods Early?

Myth: Big babies need to be fed solid foods early. This is false. There’s no evidence to support starting solids early for babies who are at the top end of the growth curve. Breast milk and formula are very rich. And, your baby is likely an expert at breastfeeding or formula feeding by this age. Therefore, continuing exclusively breastfeeding or formula feeding until about 6 months is recommended (the same as average-size babies).

Do Small Babies Need Solid Foods Early?

Myth: Small babies need to be fed solid foods early. This is also false. There’s no evidence to support starting solids early for babies who are on the small end of the growth curve. As I mentioned above, breast milk and formula are very rich and your baby is an expert at breastfeeding or formula feeding by this age. So continue to exclusively breastfeed or formula feed your baby until about 6 months (the same as average-size babies).

In summary, starting solids early won’t provide big babies or small babies with extra nutrition. Nor will it make your baby sleep through the night.  Introduce solid foods when your baby is about 6 months old.

 

Ready to start your baby on solid foods? Here's how to start your baby with purees or Baby Led Weaning (BLW)

My Son Doesn't Feed Himself. What Should I Do?

son doesn't feed himself {Guest post I contributed to the Love Child Organics blog. } Thanks to the Love Child Organics community member who asked a question regarding her 9 month old son. “My son doesn't feed himself. He is 9 months and has been eating finger foods since about 7 months. Is there something I can do to help this? Or will it just come to him?”

 

 Without doing a full assessment I can't tell you for sure why he isn't feeding himself. Here are common causes that I see and their solutions.

Why Babies Don't Feed Themselves

  1. Medical conditions or developmental concerns. Because you didn't mention it, I'm assuming that your son doesn't have any medical conditions or developmental concerns that would affect his dexterity/ motor control.
  2. Missing role models. Kids learn from watching others - particularly older kids and adults. If no one else is eating there isn't anyone to act as a role model for how to do it. Also, eating is a social activity for us human beings. Kids of all ages eat better when adults join them at the table.
  3. Temperament (also known as personality). Some little ones are what I call "outsourcers". They're happy to sit back and let others do things for them instead of doing the hard work of figuring it out themselves. Because learning to self-feed does take work at this stage.
  4. Over-helpful caregivers. Sometimes parents (and other caregivers) have such strong desires to help their little ones that they jump in and "help" instead of sitting back and allowing their little one figure things out for themselves. This can sometimes also be fuelled by impatience and/or anxiety about your little one getting enough to eat. The result is a learned helplessness.

 

If the cause is #1 then working with an Occupational Therapist can be a great help.

The solution to #2 is to sit and eat with your child. Ideally, eat the same foods too. This way you're sending a message loud and clear that you want him to eat what’s in front of him. And, you’re creating the social environment that’s most conducive to eating and learning.

The solution to #3 and #4 is the same. Resist the urge to jump in and "help". You're actually being more helpful by holding off and allowing him to learn the skills himself.  

Bottom Line: Just like learning any new skill, kids learn to feed themselves with finger foods at different rates. Join your child at the table and give them the opportunity to practice. They’ll learn this new skill in their own timing that’s perfect just for them.

 

Click this link to get tips on introducing solid foods, finger foods, and more child nutrition topics in your inbox.

Can I give finger foods if my baby doesn’t have teeth yet?

finger-foods-if-baby-doesnt-have-teeth-yet {Guest Post at Love Child Organics Both in workshops and when providing in-home child feeding sessions, I’m often asked this question: "Can I give finger foods if my baby doesn’t have teeth yet?

The short answer is: yes! You don’t need to wait until little ones have teeth before feeding them finger foods.

Babies are ready for finger foods by 7 months, if not before. Many won’t have teeth (or very many teeth) by this age.

Your baby is likely ready for finger foods when you see the following:

  • She can bring food to her mouth using her hand.
  • He can eat thicker purees (the consistency of mashed potatoes).
  • She can sit upright with minimal support.
  • He is very interested in watching people eat and the food on your plate. He May even be grabbing for people’s food, plates, cups etc.

It’s amazing to watch what little ones can handle with their gums. So go ahead and offer finger food versions of a wide variety of foods that your family eats.

Bottom Line: Enjoy watching your little one discover the amazing variety of tastes and textures that food comes in!

For more info on baby food - both purees and Baby-Led Weaning (BLW), check out this blog post.

When Can I Give Baby Strawberries, Peanuts and Shellfish?

When-Can-I-Give-Baby-Strawberries-Peanuts-and-Shellfish {Guest Post at Love Child Organics' blog: www.lovechildorganics.com/blog/ } A parent asked the following question: “What age is it safe to give my baby strawberries (and other possibly allergenic foods)?”

Anyone browsing the internet, reading parenting books, or listening to the advice of family and friends will be confused about what foods you should and shouldn’t introduce to your baby to minimize her/his risk of allergies. Everyone says something different!

Read on and I’ll share with you the inside scoop on why there’s so much conflicting information. And, how the new recommendations are based on the current scientific evidence.

The reason for much of the conflicting information is that most of the previous medical theories about what causes babies to have food allergies have proven not to be true.

As a result, the scientific research community has gone back to the drawing board to develop and test new theories for why babies develop food allergies. And even more importantly, they’ve gone back to the drawing board to find out how to prevent them.

There are lots of theories being tested currently. Two examples include exposure to pollution and almost the opposite theory that babies are raised in too clean and sterile an environment.

The (frustrating) fact is that we currently just don’t know what causes food allergies or how to prevent them.

So the reason that there’s so much conflicting information out there is that some of it is outdated. And, some of it is based on theories that are currently being tested (but not yet proven to be true).

On the other hand, what we do know is that the old rules about waiting until certain ages to introduce specific foods didn’t prevent allergies. In fact, there’s some emerging evidence that delaying the introduction of some foods, such as peanuts, may actually increase the risk of allergy.

Starting at about 6 months of age, introduce almost any food that your family eats. There’s no need to wait to give your baby foods such as strawberries, peanuts, shellfish, or any of the foods previously off limits.

That being said, there are a few foods that we do recommend waiting to introduce. These recommendations are either from a nutrition point of view or a prevention of food poisoning point of view. The foods to delay introducing are:

  • Honey – wait until after 12 months of age
  • Cows milk until 9 – 12 months (small amounts of yogurt and cheese are OK after about 6 months).
  • Raw meats, fish, raw/runny egg whites, or unpasteurized dairy foods until 4 years

For baby food ideas, check out the videos I share on my Youtube channel.

How to Deal with Throwing Food (and Cups, Plates, Utensils, etc) on the Floor

Happy child.{Guest post on the Love Child Organics blog: http://www.lovechildorganics.com/blog/ } A parent asked the following question: “How to deal with throwing food and cups on the floor”.  Almost every child goes through a stage where they throw onto the floor anything within reach from their highchair – food, plates, bowls, cups, utensils, etc.

The good news is that you can nip this behaviour in the bud and make it disappear from your mealtime and snacktime routines.

The bad news is that sometimes, inadvertently, you (and other adults) can be fuelling this behaviour.

The secret is to figure out what’s causing your little one to throw food and address the root cause.

Kids throw food for a number of reasons. Here are the 3 most common that I’ve experienced in my years of working with families. And, here’s how to get your child to stop:

[Note that the following are all assuming that your child is intentionally throwing items on the floor. Unintentionally knocking things over as a result of being clumsy and inefficient at self-feeding is normal and expected. Accept your child’s messiness as a part of learning the tricky skills of self-feeding.]

  1.  Cause: It creates a strong reaction from you. Toddlers LOVE to cause something to happen. I could go as far as saying that they’re obsessed with creating a reaction. This is why it’s so exciting to push the elevator button – because little ol’ me made the elevator move! If throwing food causes you to react – whether it’s to pick their cup back up off the floor, scold your child, etc, they’re relishing their power to make you do something. As the saying goes, negative attention is still attention. Solution: Ignore the behaviour. Respond with a simple: “we don’t throw food on the floor.” And, don’t give them back their items that they’ve dropped. They may respond with a tantrum or meltdown this time. But they’ll quickly learn to keep things that they want to eat on their tray and the throwing food on the floor will stop.
  2.  Cause: The dog eats it. This is similar to #1. Toddlers find it hilarious to feed the dog. Solution: Keep your dog out of the eating area. Either train your dog to lie outside the room during meal and snack times, or use a baby gate to block their access. Keeping the dog out of the room is the only solution that I’ve ever found to this problem. I’ve never found a way to get kids to stop enjoying “sharing” their food with their canine partners in crime J
  3.  Cause: It’s the only way that you’ll “hear” them say “I’m full”. I see this again and again. Well-meaning parents won’t accept that their child has eaten enough at a particular meal or snack. They feel that their child needs to eat more (usually due to concern that they aren’t meeting their nutrition needs). So even though their child is giving clear signals, either using words, sign language, or body signals, parents keep pushing their child to eat more. Kids keep escalate their “I’m full” signals until they throw the food on the floor. Throwing food on the floor usually causes their parents to finally allow them to stop eating. As a result the meal is now over and both adults and kids are equally upset. Solution: Trust your child to know when they’re satisfied. Babies are born knowing when they’re hungry and when they’re satisfied.  Allow your child to choose how much to eat at each occasion.  It’s normal for kids to eat a lot some days and very little on other days. You’ll make sure that your child is getting the nutrition that they need by offering foods at about 5 – 6 meals and snacks each day. And, watching their progress on their growth charts. Respect and trust your child in this way. The result is that meals will end with everyone in a good mood (and with less mess to clean up).

Check out my picky eating book for more successful toddler nutrition tips.

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Does She Ever Get Ice Cream?

little curly girl with ice cream in studio isolatedGuest post on the Love Child Organics Blog: http://www.lovechildorganics.com/blog/

A parent asked the following question:

How to handle dessert and treats. If a three year old never eats much of her meals, and we’re not meant to say, “no ice-cream unless you eat your dinner” does she ever get ice-cream?

This is a question that I’m asked all the time. In fact, it’s probably the most common preschooler nutrition question that I’m asked!

It’s very common for there to be a rule that kids must eat a certain number of bites of their vegetables/protein-foods/ dinner in order to “earn” dessert or treats.

The intentions behind it are laudable – you’re a good parent who wants your kids to eat healthy food and get good nutrition.

However, this rule not only starts mealtime battles, it actually teaches kids the opposite of what you’re intending.

Afterall, if you say that your child needs to eat 4 bites of broccoli before ‘earning’ her ice cream, then it opens the door for her to negotiate with you for only 3 or 2 bites. Or, for the size of the bites to be miniscule. It’s frustrating for you. And it’s a fantastic power struggle game that your preschooler will love.

What this rule is actually teaching kids is that healthy food is an awful chore that deserves to be rewarded. And, it reinforces that the treat food is amazing.

Studies show that kids who need to ‘earn’ treat foods in this way, when given unrestricted access to treats, will eat more of them, and at the expense of healthier foods. In other words, while making your child eat those 2 bites of broccoli before getting ice cream may get some broccoli into your child today, it’s at the expense of your child learning to choose to eat (and enjoy) broccoli.

So the parent who submitted the question is right – I recommend not saying “no ice-cream unless you eat your dinner”.

Instead, I recommend that you do what I call ‘control the menu’.

You choose what’s going to be served at each meal and snack. Sometimes this includes ice cream and other treats. Allow your child to eat as much as she/he wants of any and all the foods that you’ve served.

Yes, this may mean that she eats nothing but ice cream for dinner. It’s tough, but you need to let it go (as a dietitian I admit that I find this difficult too).

The way to influence your child to choose healthier foods is to: 1. Control how often ice cream (and other treats) are on the menu. For example, dessert isn’t served every night. 2. Role model eating (and enjoying) your non-treat foods in addition to your ice cream.

By using these two strategies, you’ll not only get healthy food into your child today, but you’ll be instilling in them a life-long habit of healthy eating.

I Don't Like That! Give Me Something Else!

I don't like that{Originally posted as a guest post on Love Child Organics http://www.lovechildorganics.com/blog/} The following question was asked on the Love Child Organics Facebook page: "How do we get our 3 year old to stop saying "I don't like that, give me something else!" at every meal?"

This is such a classic 3 year old move!

It typically comes from two different root causes – both based on a 3 year old’s developmental stage. Because I’m not in this parent’s home, I can’t determine which one is the cause. So here’s a description of both causes. The good news is that the solution is the same, regardless of the root cause.

"I Don't Like That" Root Cause #1:

It’s frustrating but it’s a 3 year old’s ‘job’ to push boundaries. At this developmental stage they spend most of each day trying to control each and every situation. It’s a normal part of them exploring how:

  • He/she is an individual,
  • She/he has choice, and
  • There are some rules that he/she doesn’t get a say in.

"I Don't Like That" Root Cause #2:

Most 3 year olds are at a developmental stage where they’re afraid to try new foods. I call this stage ‘food-wariness’. Three-year-olds don’t have the language to express that the food you’ve served makes them anxious. So instead they say that they “hate it”. You’ll know that your child has reached this stage if they announce that they hate something before they’ve ever tried it.

Solution

Regardless of whether your child is enjoying pushing your buttons (root cause #1) or afraid of trying the food (root cause #2), the absolute best way to get a child to stop asking this question is to not get them something different to eat the very first time that they ask. And, to not make kids try “just one bite”. Instead, tell them that they don’t have to eat it – it’s their choice. But you aren’t making anything else for dinner. And let them know when the next time is that you’ll be serving food – e.g. bedtime snack.

This way you are putting in a firm boundary – i.e. not making something else. But you’re giving them the ability to control the situation (which they want so desperately) because they get to control whether or not they eat the food.

After asking a few times (perhaps with a meltdown/temper tantrum or two), they’ll realize that this is one of the rules that they don’t get a say in. They’ll realize that they truly do have control over whether or not they eat the food. And, they’ll move on.

However, most of the parents whom I work with didn’t ‘nip this in the bud’. Because they’re amazing parents who want to make sure that their child gets the nutrition that she/he needs, they get up and make their child something different. While this may work in the short term (i.e. tonight), it backfires in the long term. Because what you’ve just taught you child is that what you serve for dinner is only one option. And, they simply have to say that they don’t like it to get another option. To a toddler, having the power to make your parents do things is the ultimate score. And they’ve just found out a way to do it!

The solution is actually the same as if you ‘nipped it in the bud’ – but with the addition of telling them about this new rule before you implement it.

  1. Tell your child that there will be a new rule in the house. Describe the new rule.
  2. At the next dinner, when your child rejects what you’ve served and asks for something different, remind them of the new rule and don’t get them something different to eat.
  3. Remind them that it’s their choice whether or not to take any bites.
  4. Let them know when the next time is that you’ll be serving food – e.g. bedtime snack.
  5. If they complain of being hungry later, have a discussion with them about how they’re feeling hungry now because they chose not to eat anything at dinner. Tomorrow they can have the opportunity to make a different choice. Remind them of when the next time is that you’ll be serving food – e.g. bedtime snack.

While it’s an awful feeling to know that your child is hungry, this method, called the Division of Responsibility for Feeding, has been proven by scientific studies to actually increase kids’ openness to trying new foods, leading to better nutritional health.

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What to do When Your Toddler Can Spot a Carrot at 100 Paces

girl binoculars{Guest post on the Love Child Organics blog: http://www.lovechildorganics.com/blog/} Catherine asked the following question on the Love Child Organics Facebook page: “Toddlers and vegetables... What do you do when your toddler can spot a carrot at 100 paces?!”

Catherine, you’re not alone in having this conundrum. In fact, this is probably the most frequent question that I’m asked!

Vegetables are the most common food group that toddlers don’t like to eat. Research suggests that it’s because young taste buds are more sensitive to the bitter flavour compounds naturally present in many vegetables.

But, this doesn’t mean that you need to throw up your hands and never serve your child another vegetable until they’re 21!

Before I share successful strategies, I want to let you know two really important points: 1. Fruits and vegetables are in the same food group in Canada’s Food Guide. If your child eats fruit, they’re getting many of the nutrients found in vegetables. 2. As a parent it’s not your job to make your child eat specific foods. Bribing, forcing, and other tactics may get your child to eat that bite of broccoli today, but it doesn’t teach him/her to like vegetables. And, it will likely make it more difficult to get him/her to eat that same bite of broccoli tomorrow. Instead, it’s adults’ role to provide the opportunity to eat a variety of foods. And, it’s a child’s role to choose what and how much to eat from what’s been provided to him/her. The more you overstep your role, even when you do so with the best of intentions, the less likely it is that your child will eat vegetables.

Here are strategies that do work to encourage kids to eat vegetables (including carrots): • Repeat, repeat, repeat. It’s difficult to have the patience needed when your little one refuses to eat a food that you’d really like them to eat. But studies do show that the more times you present a food, the more likely your child will be to eat it. • Allow touching, smelling, licking, and spitting out. For many kids, putting a food in their mouths is a very intimate action. All of these activities let a child get to know the food. Encourage them to explore the food this way as a part of working themselves up to eating it. • Present the vegetable in various ways. For example, just because your child hasn’t liked steamed carrots it doesn’t mean that they won’t like them raw, or in a stir-fry, or in a casserole, or pureed, etc. • Use dip. A recent study found what many parents already know – that kids will be more likely to try, and will eat more of, a vegetable if they’re served with dip. • Give small servings. One tiny piece of carrot is much less intimidating than a large serving. If your child does eat it, they can always ask for more. If they don’t eat it, then you’re minimizing food waste. • Be a carrot-eating role model. I always say that the number one way to guarantee that your kids won’t eat vegetables is by not eating vegetables yourself. Role modeling is especially important for parents who are the same sex as their kids. For example, little boys pick up very quickly that ‘boys don’t eat vegetables’ if their Mom eats veggies but their Dad doesn’t. Serving the food and role modeling eating it sends the message loud and clear that you want your child to eat the food – you don’t need to say anything more.

The most important thing is to never give up. You never know when the magical day will come that your child will try, and like, carrots. It might be today, or next week, or perhaps your child will grow up and never be a fan of carrots. This is okay too. Afterall, one can be healthy even if they don’t eat carrots (as long as they eat a wide variety of other vegetables). You can even become a dietitian and not like Brussels sprouts (I know this first-hand – and yes, every winter I do try them again).

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What's Up with Quinoa for Baby Food?

quinoa for baby food{Update on a guest post on the Love Child Organics blog: http://www.lovechildorganics.com/blog/} Today’s post answers two questions about quinoa for baby food asked by parents on the Love Child Facebook page. In my next post I'll respond to parents questions about toddler eating. “Rice baby cereal vs quinoa baby cereal, why is rice so popular?”

Baby Cereal: Rice, Quinoa, and More

Using rice cereal as a first food is a hold-over from the old advice for introducing solid foods that recommended starting with rice and moving on to other foods in a particular order in an effort to prevent food allergies. The recommendations have changed and now the current recommendations are to introduce foods in no particular order. Now I could go on about the theories behind food allergy prevention and what foods to introduce at what times, but that’s a whole other blog post. Today I’ll stay focused on this question.

The one advantage that the infant cereals have is that they’re fortified with iron, meaning that they’ve had iron added to them. Grains, including quinoa, have many nutrients but they’re naturally low in iron. Babies have an important need for iron-rich foods. This is why they add iron to baby cereals. Quinoa baby cereal is now available.

Other fantastic first foods that (naturally) are a good source of iron are meats, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, beans and lentils, and nuts & seeds (and their butters).

Once your baby is eating iron-rich foods at least twice per day, introduce a wide variety of other foods, such as quinoa.

Preparing Quinoa for a New Eater

“What's the best way to prepare quinoa for a new eater? Boiling and puréed is not cutting it.”

Now I’m not quite sure what the parent meant by “not cutting it”, but I’m assuming that she means that her child won’t eat pureed quinoa.

Quinoa is small in size. It won’t block a child’s airway so choking risk is very small. Feel free to serve it whole – no need to puree it. Here are a few ideas:

  • Serve it on it’s own. Quinoa’s small size is an excellent challenge for babies to practice their dexterity.
  • Stir cooked quinoa into other fork-mashed texture or pureed foods, such as mashed bananas or avocados. Or try out some of the baby food recipes with quinoa on the Love Child Blog. For these recipes you can either blend the quinoa right in or stir it in whole after the other ingredients have been pureed or fork mashed.Combined textures (i.e. the mashed/pureed with the whole quinoa) are a great practice for little ones.
  • Combine quinoa with egg (an iron-rich food), and other optional ingredients, to make quinoa patties (similar to a burger or fish cake), then break it into finger food size pieces. There are hundreds of recipes on the internet. Chatelaine Magazine featured one in April and the Love Child Blog has a great baked quinoa and egg recipe too. Once you’ve introduced each of these ingredients as single foods, give a burger recipe a try.

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