We all know how important it is to instil good eating habits from a young age and how this can help to nurture a love of food.
We asked Sophie, the founder of Mamamade to share her top tips that we as parents can do to promote the habits of confident, adventurous eaters.
Mamamade is a direct-to-consumer brand specialising in infant and toddler nutrition, with a focus on supporting parents. What started from my home kitchen in 2019 is now a community of 40,000 – all of us sharing the highs and lows and offering a listening ear for everything life throws at us. Something we hear a lot from the Mamamade community is concern over whether or not they’re doing things ‘right.’ There’s a lot of pressure out there, you know? Like there’s some ideal type of eater out there, and it’s up to us as parents to mould our kids into that. And parents will often say to us that they feel they’ve done something ‘wrong’ because their baby only wants sweet foods or pouches or snacks. Spoiler alert: They’ve done nothing wrong. And often how a child eats is out of our hands - they really were born that way. But that said, there’s always more we can do as parents to promote the habits of confident, adventurous eaters. Here are my top tips:
1) Be consistent. Focus on variety & repeated exposureDid you know you can learn to like a food at any age? No, really. You can train your palate as an adult - so all the more so, you can help your little ones accept new flavours, too. The best way to do that is with low-pressure exposure. Just seeing a mushroom on the plate counts. Keep offering a wide variety of foods - let them play, touch, feel - and above all, no forcing! It can take up to 20 tries - sounds disheartening, but carry on!
2) Monkey see, monkey do
Kids. They want to be just like us! Surely by now you’ve experienced your baby reaching over to your plate? Eating together as a family is one of the best ways to encourage your little one to eat and try new foods.
3) We decide what, they decide how muchRepeat the above, day in and day out. When your baby was born you were likely told to feed on demand/responsively - and when it comes to solids, it’s not too different. There are no guidelines on portion sizes for babies. Our job is to help them honour their hunger and fullness cues, and the best way to do that is to never force them to eat. Equally, if they’re still demonstrating signs of hunger and interest, you can carry on offering more. No forcing either way! It builds confidence to allow your little one to explore the foods on their plate without feeling obliged to eat.
4) Bring them into the kitchen
Knives, fire, heat - the kitchen may seem full of dangers, but by bringing your child into the preparation process, you can help them build confidence around new foods. They can help with stirring, pouring, mixing - some mess is good! We’ve brought Liba in to the kitchen from the time she could stand, and it’s been a gamechanger. She readily tried aubergine and tomatoes just by having a hand in the preparation process.
5) Food is amoral - it can’t be ‘good’ or ‘bad’
This is a big one. Food isn’t good or bad. It has no moral value, and it’s important to allow children to see there’s a time and a place for all foods. I often include dessert alongside dinner. This sounds counterintuitive, but actually, by not withholding dessert (and saying, ‘you can have that pudding when you finish your meal’), I’m not teaching that one is better than the other. So my children enjoy everything on the plate and eat until they’re full. I hope these tips help! Don’t hesitate to connect with us over at @hellomamamade - we’d love to hear how you’re getting on!