Your little one may still boast a gummy smile and subsist mostly off breastmilk or formula, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t already be thinking about ways in which you can include him or her in family meals. Though most doctors don’t recommend that babies begin to eat solids until they’re at least one year old, you should take steps long before that to ensure that, when the time comes, your infant or toddler will transition from milk to mush to solids without issue.
Why Family Mealtimes Matter
Whether you’re new to the whole parenting thing or already have three car seats in various stages taking up space in your minivan, you may have little time in your life to make a home cooked meal, much less enjoy it with the people you love. Yet, it’s so important that you make time to do so, even if it means cutting other responsibilities.
Per several studies, eating together as a family can have several benefits for both parents and children. Though not an exhaustive list, some of the top benefits of eating meals as a family are as follows:
- Raise better and less picky eaters.
- Get an opportunity to set an example of what healthy eating and polite table manners look like.
- Get the chance to bond with your children and strengthen your relationships with them in an otherwise chaotic world.
- Help your children maintain a healthy weight, as research shows that family meals reduce the risk of overeating.
- Reduce the risk that your children will engage in risky behaviors as adolescents.
The potential to realize these benefits as a family is there. You just have to set the foundation for family mealtimes early on.
Tips on Cooking for a Mix-Aged Crowd
Finding the time to enjoy even just one sit-down meal with your family is a challenge in and of itself. Once you overcome that, you will then have to learn how to cook for all ages and preferences at your table. This task may prove more challenging than the first.
The thing is, depending on how many children you have and how picky each one is, you will rarely make meals that satisfy everyone. However, you can give it your best shot and, more importantly, ensure that everyone at least enjoys your family meals. Some ways in which you can do that are as follows:
- Plan your meals in advance and as a family.
- Let your children help prepare the meals and set the table.
- When possible, let your children “build” a meal by giving them options for each food category.
- Get creative with meals and mealtimes, such as by serving pancakes for dinner or hosting a picnic in the backyard.
Though you should never force your children to eat anything they do not like, you should encourage and reward good eating habits.
Best Ingredients To Use for Baby-Friendly Meals
The goal is to eventually get your baby to the point where he or she eats what you eat for dinner. However, until you get to that point, you will need to meet him or her halfway by using baby-friendly ingredients. A few with which you can never go wrong are as follows:
- Rice and noodles
- Mashed potatoes
- Steamed veggies
- Beans and lentils
- Quinoa and couscous
- Yogurt and cottage cheese
- Turkey and chicken
- Ground beef and pork
- Soft fruits
You can use the above list to create a menu of baby-friendly meals.
Prioritizing Food Safety for Baby
Of course, safety comes first and foremost for your little one. Before you feed him or her anything new, prepare for the unexpected, such as an allergic reaction, and take steps to prevent emergencies, such as choking. Introduce new foods in small portions, cut everything into small, manageable bites, and always be present when your child is eating.
If your child cannot yet eat the nutrient-dense foods you consume, don’t worry. You can introduce multi-vitamins at a young age with multi-vitamin drops and gummies.
Family & Children’s Center: https://www.fcconline.org/blog/the-importance-of-family-mealtime/https://www.emmasdiary.co.uk/baby/starting-solids/baby-meal-menus