Is it too soon to begin establishing healthful mealtime habits?

Even though your baby hasn’t reached his first birthday, the standards you set now will lay the groundwork for his eating habits throughout childhood—and maybe even beyond. It’s more important at this age to teach healthful habits than to worry about how much he’s eating.

Here are some strategies to help get things off to a good start:

  • Have the whole family sit down together for meals as often as you can.
  • Don’t plop your child in front of the TV to eat. He’s apt to focus better and eat more when he’s eating at the table with you or the whole family.
  • Sit your baby in his high chair for snacks and meals, rather than letting him wander while eating. This position helps keep his focus on the food, and it’s safer, too.
  • Offer a range of foods and encourage a balanced diet. Your baby may seem to favour certain foods over others, but he needs the nutrients that come with variety.
  • Don’t overfeed your baby. Offer small amounts—just 2 to 4 tablespoons—of food at a time, and let him indicate whether he wants more. When he starts playing around rather than eating, he’s done.
  • Expect a bit of a mess, but try not to encourage it, for instance, by laughing when he throws or spits food.
  • Avoid fruit juice. If you do offer it, be sure it is 100% fruit juice and limit it to less than 4 to 6 ounces (125 mL to 175 mL) per day. Always offer it in a cup, and as part of a meal or snack. Juice has little nutritional value and fills your baby up with empty calories.

—Scott Cohen, MD, pediatrician and author of Eat, Sleep, Poop: A Common Sense Guide to Your Baby’s First Year

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