How to: Tempt fussy tots' taste buds
A recent survey for Organix found that 75 per cent of us think eating with your tot helps them to enjoy different foods. Great British Bake Off finalist Holly Bell, whose book Recipes From a Normal Mum is packed with ideas for family meals, tells us how to tempt those tiny taste buds.
Holly offers her top tips to get tots trying something new
1. What's the best way to get a baby excited about the prospect of trying new foods?
I think the first 'rule' of getting your little one excited about and open to trying new foods is to relax yourself. I know when I was weaning my first son I was a lot more worried about the process and felt a little defeated if he didn't adore what I'd lovingly prepared. So push your shoulders down, smile and remember that babies are naturally inquisitive souls. Even if they don't actually eat what you put in front of them, they'll have a fabulous time playing with it!
Eating together is key. Getting together as a family and with friends and their babies is a great way to get your baby excited about trying new foods. I've joined the Organix babies who lunch campaign to encourage parents to get together when they are weaning their babies, because when babies eat together they are more likely to try new foods. My boys have all been weaned at the family table, on a combination of family food and their own specially prepared purees. Most of the time our family meal is more than suitable for the baby of the family, I'm just very careful not to add salt or to use regular stock cubes, add honey or go too heavy on the spice. I have noticed that all my sons are more open to new foods when they watch family members and friends eating them. Peer pressure is alive and well in the under 5s!
2. How should new foods be introduced to babies? A lot of variety at a time or one by one?
I am weaning my third son, Lawrence at the moment. I started him off with simple purees and finger foods for him to play with and very quickly progressed to lumpier purees. I tended to limit his plate to just three different items at each sitting so as not to overwhelm him, but really I'd go with the flow of what suits your baby. Some babies seem to prefer lots of variety and others less.
Lawrence is now more of a self-feeder but will 'allow' me to spoon feed him Greek yoghurt and rice pudding. He's managed to pilfer a spoonful of lemon posset when my husband held his own spoon near to Lawrence for a little too long!
Lawrence has very strong opinions about what he does and doesn't like which amuses the older boys no end. He loves cauliflower and broccoli cheese, homemade pizza, refined sugar free flapjacks, Organix biscuits (especially the banana ones), melon, banana, Greek yoghurt, paella, roast lamb, lasagne, pork noodles and scrambled egg.
My main advice would be not to give up easily when it comes to new foods. It can take up to 15 times (and more) before a baby becomes used to a new flavour or texture, so don't get disheartened if he/she doesn't like new foods immediately.
3. If a baby refuses to try something, what's your advice on how to encourage them to?
My main advice to other mums and dads would be to remember all babies are different (even ones from the same family) so try not to compare your baby's palate to their little pals. And not to give up if they reject something the first time. Try, try and try again. Try not to see it as a waste of food, as frustrating as it can be. Oh, and expect mess. A LOT of mess!
My boys all have preferences for how various foods are prepared. One prefers crunchy textures and so would always choose homemade fish fingers over baked fish given the option. The other prefers softer food and likes his fish in a pie. One is crazy for roast potatoes, but can't bear mash... one likes cooked apples, but not raw ones. Food not only changes in flavour depending on its preparation, but also changes in texture. For kids I think texture is as important as the taste, if not more so. I still remember gagging on the crunchy mashed potato topping of a shepherd's pie as a child despite loving the pillowy soft cheesy mash underneath.
4. Is there often a pattern in foods a baby likes and dislikes? Eg. certain vegetables are often unpopular with babies
Some fruit and veg are harder sells to babies. Just from chatting to other mums and remembering my own weaning experiences, babies do seem to veer towards the sweet vegetables and less tart fruit. (Of course there are always those babies who are the opposite!) Spinach, kale and other strong tasting vegetables can be easier to serve if offered with carrots, squash, potatoes and other sweeter produce. Then the trick is to gradually reduce the sweeter vegetable each time.
I have one son who's a fruit and vegetable fiend and one who's not keen at all. So far son number three seems to have a varied palate. I think weaning is the perfect time to introduce so many wonderful natural flavours, but ultimately every baby is an individual. Despite offering all manner of vegetables and fruit to one of my sons he remains quite narrow in his choices. As long as he's eating some though I'm not worried.
One of the things it's important to be careful of is not to impose your own likes and dislikes on your baby. I know I can be guilty of not popping something in the trolley because it's not my favourite thing to eat. I keep having to remind myself that food likes and dislikes are more learnt than genetic.
5. How many times would you recommend retrying rejected foods? And over what sort of time scale?
Try, try and try again. And then again! New foods rarely become favourites overnight, even with adults. Little ones need to get used to new foods and flavours. Don't give up if they reject it at first. Lucky, I'm a persistent woman so all my babies have benefitted from a mother who kept on trying them with foods they previously rejected! I try and look at new foods through their eyes and remember how scary it felt as a child when faced with a plate of something I didn't recognise. Having said this I don't serve up the same rejected food day after day; that way it becomes an expected punishment if you will. Better to leave it a few days and try again after the memory of just how much they didn't like lentils is a vague memory!
Lucy has been working with Organix on the Organix Little Book of Weaning, you can download a copy here