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Setting Healthy Eating Habits Now Will Benefit Your Baby For Life

02/23/2016 03:36 EST | Updated 02/23/2017 05:12 EST

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There is no one in the world your baby admires more than you -- you are the apple of their eye, the love of their life, and everything you do captivates them. This is why it's so important to be a positive role model for your baby's eating habits.

If your family has not adopted healthy eating already, the time when baby starts solids is the perfect opportunity to do so. If baby grows up among a family where fresh, nutritious foods are readily available and eaten at every meal, chances are that those habits will become part of their routines and expectations.

This ensures baby has the best start in life, and everyone in the family will feel better for it. If you're the one buying the groceries, you are the ultimate nutrition decision maker in the house. You make the call as to what your children will eat. This doesn't mean you shouldn't indulge from time to time, you are just laying the ground rules for what is generally acceptable.

Let's say you consider French fries your dinner vegetable, and you feed this to your baby as well. This means your baby will grow up associating salt and saturated fats with acceptable dinner vegetables and be less open to the taste of steamed broccoli (missing out on the fibre and vitamin that broccoli provides).

If you haven't already, use baby as an excuse to bring healthy eating into the home -- your whole family will fare better for it. As a PARENT you have a responsibility to lead the charge on setting these healthy habits.

Regular meals

By baby's first year, they should be offered three regular meals in addition to two or three snacks per day. The snacks should be quick and not constant eating throughout the day, or your baby will not build up an appetite for the next meal.

Eat together

All family members, including babies and toddlers, will benefit from eating at the table together. It is not safe for your little one to eat while running around, and the shared family mealtime helps create a child who is happier and more successful than one who doesn't share meals at home.

Balance

The ideal meal includes food from each food group: grain, fruit/vegetable, dairy/dairy alternative and meat/meat alternative. A great snack would include at least two of the four food groups. The baby can be offered what the rest of the family is eating, provided it is age-appropriate.

The BABY also has responsibilities in this experience: how much they want to eat and if they want to eat at all.

Take the lead. When it comes to eating, babies should always take the lead. Let them play with the food you've offered, and if they are finished (which they'll let you know by closing their mouths, turning away or throwing food), do not force them to eat more.

Many parents are concerned that their child is not eating enough, but babies are good at regulating their appetites and will not starve themselves. They may eat a lot one day, then almost nothing the next. That is completely normal.

If your baby does not eat anything offered at a meal or snack, or even for a day or two, trust that your baby is doing what their body is requesting. If the baby refuses a new food, try not to worry. Try again later, perhaps offering the new food with a familiar one so they have something to eat, either way.

Then, you can attempt the new food a few days later, then again, and again! When you approach your child's eating habits with a more relaxed attitude, you help your child develop their appetite and a healthy relationship with food that will carry them through life.

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