Healthy eating for babies

At the heart of a healthy family is healthy eating, and never will you have more influence on your offspring's eating habits than in the formative years of their early childhood. Now is the time to introduce nutritional food that will decrease the likelihood of future obesity and health problems.

So where do you start?

At the table, of course: the breakfast table. Research has proved it: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Therefore, you should strive to make it nutritious and delicious. Try to avoid high-sugar cereals. Instead, choose porridge or muesli, enlivened – if necessary – by chopped fresh fruit. Or how about wholemeal toast with an egg? These foods give children a store of energy that, unlike sugary cereals, will carry them through most of the day.

Over-eating can also be brought on by forcing a child to "clean the plate"

Get your children interested in healthy foods like fruit and vegetables by letting them participate in the shopping and preparation of meals. There's no shortage of variety when it comes to healthy food and you’ll be surprised by how quickly children can be steered away from junk food. But don't say one thing to them and do something else yourself - if you want them to eat healthily, then you should practice what you preach.

Also, make sure you sit down to meals together, without distractions like television. This makes mealtime an occasion to enjoy the food and each other's company. There is a health benefit to this too: when someone eats a meal, while distracted, they don’t have a sense of 'fullness' - this can lead to over-eating.

when it comes to drinks, avoid those high in sugar and containing caffeine

Over-eating can also be brought on by forcing a child to "clean the plate". In doing this, you’re ignoring the fact that the child might just be 'full'. It’s frustrating, yes, but in the long run, you’re actually teaching good eating habits - i.e., the ability to recognise 'fullness'.

Outside of meal-times, allow your children to snack on what's good for them – for instance, always try to have a well-stocked fruit bowl within reach of their little hands.

Don’t use sweets or junk food as a treat, a reward or a bribe. This will only encourage children to believe that this kind of food is 'special'. Exactly what you’re trying to avoid.

Finally, when it comes to drinks, avoid those high in sugar and containing caffeine. Water is best, but fruit juices and smoothies are generally pretty okay, as long they have low sugar content. Milk is a great source of calcium and is therefore also highly recommended.

eumom's Family Life section is packed of relevant information, tips, recipes and advice on you and your family’s health, nutrition and lifestyle.

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