As children begin to wean off milk and explore solid foods, it’s very common for families to feel equally excited and daunted by this process. Joy, frustration, doubt, and confusion are all normal emotions as families try to understand which foods to offer first, how much, when, and how.
With an abundance of feeding methods, scientific recommendations and pre-made food options constantly bombarding new parents, Chief Nutrition Officer Mandy Sacher is here to take the uncertainty out of this process.
Whether you’re using purees, baby-led weaning, or a combination of the two, Mandy’s top 5 tips for transitioning to solids will help to make this developmental milestone not only enjoyable but also a calm flavour-filled journey.
Why do we place so much importance on introducing solids?
From 6 months of age, a baby can no longer meet all their nutritional requirements from formula or breastmilk alone. Important minerals and vitamins such as iron and vitamin B12 must be supplemented from solid food.
Research has shown that children’s relationship with food and associated preferences are shaped from their very first taste of food. While this may sound like an overwhelming responsibility, it’s a wonderful opportunity to teach your baby to enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods, build a positive relationship towards food, and look forward to shared fun (albeit messy) mealtimes together.
Mandy’s top 5 tips for starting solids
1. Offer real food first
Ditch the rice cereals – even if they are organic. Instead, it’s much better to introduce vegetables as their first food group and expose your baby to food the way nature intended. Explore a wide range of veggies, including less common ones such as beetroot, Jerusalem artichoke, chokoes, swedes and parsnips.
2. Repetition is key
Research shows it can take 6 to 16 flavour experiences before a baby readily accepts a new flavour. This means, if your baby shuns a particular food on the first go – don’t give up. The skill of eating and food acceptance takes time and plenty of repetition – so remember to sit back, and what is not eaten can be offered again the next day or frozen and offered at a later stage. NB. Always follow food hygiene safety guidelines.
3. Don’t delay finger foods
Whether you are introducing purees to your baby or love the idea of baby-led weaning, all babies should be introduced to finger foods from 6+ months onwards. A hybrid model of incorporating purees from 4+ months and then purees, mashed foods and finger foods from 6+ months will ensure that your baby is accepting of all food textures to reduce the likelihood of fussy eating. You can find a range of delicious recipes here, that can all be modified for children beginning solid foods.
4. Avoid force-feeding your baby
Encouraging your baby to regulate their appetite can ensure a healthy weight, according to research. Force-feeding can lead to unwanted problems, such as fear of mealtimes, fussiness, and inability to recognise hunger and satiety cues. It’s far more important to follow your baby’s hunger cues and let them decide whether they want the next mouthful without pressuring them to eat. Babies are extremely good at regulating their own appetites. If they are being offered healthy, nourishing foods, then there’s no need to limit their portion size
5. Role model healthy eating behaviours
From the start, showing your baby how to enjoy and appreciate healthy and nourishing foods is essential. You can’t expect your baby to gobble up their veggies yet not eat them yourself. The best way to role model healthy behaviours is to introduce family meals and eat together with your baby; even if that means having a salad or steamed veggie sticks while they are eating, it still counts. I recommend introducing family meals as your baby begins to self-feed and enjoy finger foods.
The MindChamps ChampionGold™ Standard Nutrition Programme
Developing positive eating habits in the early years is a responsibility we take very seriously at MindChamps. That is why we’ve invested heavily in creating the MindChamps ChampionGold™ Standard Nutrition Programme developed by the MindChamps Nutrition team led by our Chief Nutrition Officer Mandy Sacher, Australia’s leading paediatric Nutritionist and bestselling author.
Our philosophy is simple – teach children’s taste buds to enjoy nourishing, nutritionally beneficial foods as early as possible to ensure optimal development and the establishment of lifelong healthy eating behaviours.
You can learn more about this program here. For more inspiration and tips from Mandy, follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
MindChamps Global Chief Nutrition Officer Mandy Sacher is Australia’s leading Paediatric Nutritionist, best-selling Author, child nutrition expert, blogger, and mother of two! She is also known for co-developing MEND (Mind Exercise Nutrition Do It!), the world’s largest and most researched childhood obesity prevention and treatment program based in the UK that was developed with over ten years of research.
Mandy and her Nutrition Team believe in the well-being of all our MindChamps children and that their nutritional needs should be fulfilled in our centres. Mandy’s philosophy is simple – teach children’s taste buds to enjoy nourishing, nutritionally beneficial foods as early as possible to ensure optimal development and establishment of lifelong healthy eating behaviours. Bridging the gaps in food and nutrition, this first-of-its-kind partnership is our commitment to creating and elevating a positive and lasting impact on childhood nutrition on a global level.