Teaching Good Nutrition Begins in Infancy
We hear the mantra that the very beginning of life is when babies learn the most as the reason why we should focus on their education from the very beginning. But we all know from personal experience that nobody actually remembers being a baby. It’s hard to associate a period of our own lives that nobody can even remember with being the most ideal time for learning. Yet, even nutrition needs to be taught from the earliest stages, even in infancy, before your child even reaches the age of one!
Late last year yet another study was released that confirms this once again. What babies were fed in infancy directly correlated to what they consumed later in life, at age six. Babies who were fed unhealthy foods in infancy grew into children who were more than twice as likely to consume unhealthy foods as children – and of course, many other studies confirm that behaviors cemented in childhood are carried through into adulthood. In essence, what you choose to feed your baby directly impacts how they will choose to eat during the rest of their lives.
Did you know that over 30% of 6-year-olds consume fruit less than once daily? Nearly 20% of 6-year-olds consume vegetables less than once daily. (Personally, I do not even know what these kids could possibly be eating, since fruits and vegetables are virtually all my kids eat!) Even the US government recommends a minimum five servings a day of fruits and vegetables, so these kids are definitely not meeting nutritional guidelines, not even nutritional guidelines I find sorely lacking.
This study, done by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), found that kids who were fed less than one serving of fruits and vegetables per day in infancy were more than twice as likely to eat less than one serving per day of fruits and vegetables when they were six years old. No wonder the AAP is getting desperate to get kids to eat their fruits and veggies in any way possible!
Starting babies out eating fruits and vegetables is the easiest thing in the world. Babies are a captive audience when it comes to food. They only experience as much variety as you provide them with and their taste buds are uncorrupted by flavors like sugar and salt. All babies naturally gravitate toward sweet flavors (actually, I think most people do), which makes it even easier to give them fruits and vegetables as kids. I fed my babies a wide variety of sweet foods when I started them on solids: stewed fruits like apples and pears, mashed soft fruits like bananas (especially delicious mixed with some mashed avocado) and ripe peach flesh, and steamed sweet vegetables like purple and orange sweet potatoes or carrots.
My kids generally had one to two servings of oatmeal (cooked using expressed breast milk for added nutrition), one serving of a sweet fruit or vegetable, and one serving of a savory vegetable (such as pureed spinach or peas) per meal. I would also mix savory and sweet vegetables together (such as peas and carrots or spinach and butternut squash/pumpkin) and might even add fruit (pears with peas and carrots, for instance). For ideas, look no further than your local grocery store – what fruit and vegetables combinations are being sold in prepackaged baby foods? Those foods are tried and tested, so you know the flavors go together well.
I always made all my own baby food, which is easier than it sounds. I often made extra of whatever I was preparing for dinner and simply set it aside and pureed it. Other times, I would specifically cook up a batch for the baby but I would freeze the majority of it in quarter-cup ice cube trays. That way it took maximum a half an hour of time per week to make separate food for the baby. Of course, you could just buy baby food! Today the range of organic baby food free of added sugar, salt, and preservatives is growing.
Studies like this one show just how important it is to start educating your kids about nutrition from the very beginning. Their first lessons start when they first start solids!