Stress-Free Feeding for the Festive Period
Introducing food, whether for the first bite ever or getting your stubborn toddler to eat vegetables, can be a minefield of stress and frustration. Alice Fotheringham, Piccolo’s infant nutrition expert, kindly wrote this article!
My first piece of advice if you have googled ‘stress-free feeding’ is to please try to stop worrying about it! You can cause yourself untold stress from your child refusing to eat at meals or clamping jaws shut at the sight of anything green, but you have to try to take that pressure off yourself. I bet you anything they are probably having a good variety of different foods – try writing down what they’ve had over the week and see.
It is incredibly common for children to lose interest in a food suddenly or only seem to be interested in pasta and cheese and anything else beige.
Please stop worrying about this. It’s about having patience and being persistent at offering new foods. Children around the age of one (but it can differ and sometimes come later) often lose interest in new foods and go for simple foods or foods with fun textures like crunchy foods, a.k.a. crisps and crackers!
Sometimes, it can simply be losing appetite due to growing less speedily than they have in the past few months, where they gobbled everything in sight. But it is also thought to be a natural preservation tactic where new foods could have been poisonous.
Here are my top tips on what to do if your child wails at the sight of a broccoli floret lovingly steamed or flatly refuses anything other than that yoghurt you’ve hidden at the back of the fridge (how do they know it’s there!?)
Try not to compareDon’t compare with your neighbour or friend’s sister’s baby and what they are eating, or take anyone’s unsolicited advice to heart. Everyone seems to have an opinion on weaning and feeding your children, often meant with the best intent– but you know your kid best, which leads me to the next point...
Every baby is differentYou may have heard this before, but I think we still can’t help saying, ‘oh your baby’s big/small/ insert other less sensitive words about size here.’ Babies often grow in bursts, and sometimes they are smaller than this mythical average, and sometimes they store up those lovely rolls before growing at a rate of knots.*
The same can be true for appetite; they often fluctuate wildly in their interest in food– the best thing to do is to respond to this. Remember, milk is the most important source of nutrition in the first 12 months. So, if they appear hungrier than usual, try giving more milk over solids and if they are not interested in food, remember that their milk is still giving them their vital nutrients. Children older than one year will very rarely not eat when hungry, so take the food away and try another time. They may not be hungry at that time.
Responsive feeding is key
Babies and young children have a stronger sense of satiety, i.e. knowing when they are hungry and when they are not.We all know when they are hungry, as they don’t keep quiet for long, but we often don’t recognise signs of fullness or lack of hunger and can often give them a snack as entertainment, not as a source of nutrition. Be sure to watch out for signs that they are not hungry: turning their heads away or refusing food.
Variety is key
It is so desponding to have food refused. It can feel so much easier to give your baby something you know they will like, but the more you do this, your child will learn to refuse new foods to get to the food they love.
It is usual for them to turn up their nose at something new, but gentle encouragement to try just a bite is critical; they never know what they might actually like.
Portion sizesThis can be so confusing as each child is different. At the start, it can literally be a few teaspoons (which they end up eating, the rest wolfed down by the family dog, or down your top), but there are no set rules. It is better to give smaller portions that look less intimidating and mean less waste.
Using little bowls of food is an excellent way to go, as it means they can then go back for seconds. A little finger bowl of veg or salad at the beginning of a meal is also a great way to increase veg content while preparing the rest of the meal, giving you a bit more time! Don’t cajole or stress about the amount.
Make life easy on yourself
Fast foods that you enjoy are great and give you more time to do other things. You do not need to spend weekends batch cooking unless you want to or enjoy it. However, I am a big fan of freezing leftovers and cooking extra portions of your vegetables in the evening and giving them to them the next day (with a bit of dip or drizzled in olive oil or grated cheese).
If you want a sandwich or salad for lunch, give them components of that. Whether scrambled, boiled or made into eggy bread frittatas or omelettes, eggs are a quick meal and a regular saviour in our house.You do not have to make special meals for your little ones. They love spices and stronger flavours; watch for the salt, but make that Chilli Con Carne or curry. Keep the fiery chilli out until later, but all those lovely warming spices like paprika, cumin or turmeric are fantastic for little ones to explore.
Make snacks countSnacking is an excellent opportunity to get something good in. Keep cut carrots in a tupperware with water in the fridge for an emergency veggie snack, or take out individually wrapped cheeses and seeds with you— good for you and your kids on the go! Spread a source of protein on rice cakes, like nut butter, cream cheese or hummus.
If it gets messy, know that our Sticky Stopper Antibacterial Cleaner will be your side, one spray at a time!
To visit the website of Piccolo and discover more about their delicious baby food, it's here.
*If you are worried about your baby's size, go and speak to your GP or health visitor.