5 Tips to Create a Joyful & Positive Meal Environment Day 1: 5 Tips to Create a Joyful & Positive Meal Environment

5 Tips to Create a Joyful & Positive Meal Environment

Feeding babies can be a tricky task, but instilling proper feeding habits at a younger age will ensure they build healthy eating habits as they grow up.

Let’s look at some tips for setting up a positive and joyful meal environment.

1) Comfortable sitting position

Feeding babies when they’re lying down is highly avoidable, as it can be a choking hazard, irrespective whether you’re feeding hand-held foods or purees. Your little one should be sitting upright and be stable. Avoid reclining chairs and loungers.

Seat your baby on their high chair and position the food on the tray in front of them, so it’s easily within their view. Let their feet rest on a sturdy footrest; if that’s not possible, place something under the table for them to rest their feet on, so they’re not dangling in the air.

Tip:

It’s essential that babies are sitting upright during feeding, to avoid the risk of choking, which is a serious hazard. Avoid holding/carrying them or making them lie down on the lap.

2) Avoid smaller meals in between

It’s important that babies do not snack in between their feeds, or they may be reluctant to sit and eat the actual meal. According to Natalia Stasenko, MS, RD, CDN, Tribeca Nutrition, toddlers should be fed at an interval of 2–3 hours, with only water in between. 

Snacking on smaller meals with an interval of less than 2 hours throughout the day will affect your baby’s intake or appetite for formula or breast feeds. So, it’s best to avoid this habit.

3) Avoid phones or devices

To help your baby develop healthy eating habits, it’s good to avoid devices at mealtime. Eating without distractions will help babies develop the necessary sensory experiences, savor the food and its textures, and open their minds to new flavorful experiences!

We know it’s difficult to get children to sit still and eat. But do try to avoid digital devices at meal times.

4) Resist prolonging the mealtime

It’s very common for children to get restless and want to get off the feeding chair. It’s their nature: they cannot sit in one place due to a very short attention span. In such instances, avoid following them around with a bowl or spoon of food. If they’re not hungry, it’s totally okay. 

Ideally, their mealtime should not go beyond 15 minutes, which means you can clear their food or table after 15 minutes.

5) Avoid force feeding

When babies shut their mouths or turn their faces away, it simply indicates that they’re not hungry at that moment. Your baby is giving a clear cue they do not want to eat, and it’s best to not force-feed them.

We recommend giving your child the freedom to eat what they want, so they will learn to say no to food when necessary, preventing chances of obesity in the future. Force-feeding may lead to your child developing an aversion to food.

Foods to Avoid Giving Babies When They’re Weaning

Did you know, there are also certain foods that we should avoid giving babies during their weaning process? Keep reading…

1) Dal pani or rice pani

When it comes to introducing solids to your baby, it's common to start with dal pani or rice pani, but did you know that these don't actually provide your child with the nutrients they need? In fact, these liquids can fill your little one up, resulting in them drinking less breast milk or formula, and ultimately stunting their growth.

But don't worry, there's a better way! Instead of these low-nutrient value liquids, start with iron-rich foods (steamed to make them easier for your little one to eat). By doing this, you'll be providing your baby with essential nutrients they need for healthy growth and development.

2) Sugar

It's natural for babies to have a preference for sweet flavors — breast milk and formula are already sweet, after all! However, it's important to avoid adding sugar to their food. Sugar can mask the natural flavors of different foods and prevent your child from exploring new tastes. Plus, excessive sugar consumption can lead to dental problems.

Instead, offer your child a variety of flavors without added sugar. For example, if you give your child sheera or halwa (a porridge-like sweet made from semolina) without sugar, they can taste the natural flavors of the ingredients. 

Many ready foods like Cerelac or cereal also contain added sugar. By avoiding excess sugar, you can help your child build a healthy relationship with food and develop a love for a wide variety of flavors.

3) Salt

It's important to remember that babies and young children don't need extra salt or sugar in their diets. Salt can actually mask the true flavors of foods. Too much salt can also be difficult to process for their developing kidneys. Similarly, consuming excessive sugar can lead to unhealthy eating habits and health problems later on.

But there’s absolutely no harm if your baby has a bit of salt or sugar once in a while. The key is to be mindful of how much they are consuming and to try to limit it as much as possible.

4) Honey

It's a common misconception that using alternative sweeteners in place of sugar will reduce children’s preference for sweet taste. Remember, children tend to enjoy sweet flavors, regardless of the source!

It’s best to avoid honey until babies are at least a year old. This is because it can contain bacteria that produce toxins in a baby's intestine, which can cause infant botulism –– a serious illness. Even a small amount of honey can be dangerous for young children because their bodies are not yet equipped to fight off this bacteria. So, it's best to avoid giving honey or jaggery to babies, even in small amounts. But don't worry, there are plenty of other safe and delicious foods for your little one to enjoy, which we will discover in the coming weeks.

Tomorrow, we will explore the concept of responsive feeding, which can help babies build a healthy relationship with food.