Just the right mix - The importance of a balanced diet

A balanced diet is important, no matter how old you are. Whilst your baby might show a preference for certain foods, it’s important to try and provide a balanced diet as much as possible. 

By introducing them to a variety of nutritious foods you will encourage them to eat well and get plenty of nutrients that they need to grow into the bright and active young person that they are!

It’s also an opportunity for fun and exploration that could set them up with a lifetime of healthy eating habits. Later on you might find they’re wary of new foods and this is normal for toddlers, but teaching them to be open to new things early on could make life easier down the track. 

Why a balanced diet is so important

  • Nutrition: By introducing a variety of foods from all the food groups, you will encourage your baby to explore new flavours, and have a balanced and nutritious diet. Include foods in an appropriate texture from the five food groups: Vegetables; Fruit; Grain foods; Milk products; Legumes, eggs, fish, chicken and meat (an important source of iron). Babies enjoy the natural flavours of foods, so make sure you choose and prepare foods for your little one with no added sugar or salt.
  • Growing bodies: New textures and learning to chew helps your baby develop fine motor skills, as well as develop their jaw and muscles they use for speech. Finger foods also can help improve hand-eye coordination.
  • Learning: Meal times are an opportunity for fun and exploration. Not only is it a chance for your baby to explore new tastes and textures, but it really helps them to become interested in food itself.
  • Acceptance: Having a varied diet from a young age could help introduce your baby to a lifelong appreciation for healthy, nutritious food and also help negate a fussy eater.

Tips for a happy meal time routine

  • Food rainbow: Include a range of different coloured foods to keep things interesting and fun, for example cooked carrots, sweet potato and broccoli.
  • Be persistent: You might need to offer some foods a number of times. Even if they reject it to start off with they might enjoy it later. Sometimes babies need to be offered food 10 times before they try it and like it. Similarly, food they once loved might fall out of favour, again just keep offering it here and there and they eventually will start eating it again.
  • Variety: Include a range of flavours and textures if you can. It’ll help make them a more confident eater and be open to trying new things.
  • Adding lumps: Once your baby is confidently eating purées, you can increase the texture to include mashed food with soft lumps.
  • Family meal times: Sitting down to eat as a family can encourage a more fun social experience. If bub sees you enjoying your food, your little one might be more open to trying the things they see you eating.
  • Food is fun: Your baby might want to play with their food and try to feed them self – this is a good thing! By squishing it through their fingers or rolling it on their plate they are using all their senses to learn and understand what food is all about. Let them get messy and encourage self-feeding with finger foods or by letting your baby hold the spoon. Food is a whole new world to be explored and they’ll want to experience it with all their senses (touch, taste, see).
  • Enough is enough: Babies and toddlers are really good at regulating their own appetite if you let them, so no need to coerce them into eating everything they are given. Sometimes they may peck like a bird, other times they may gorge like an army. All you need to worry about is feeding them in the first place and let them be the judge of how much they need.

 

The materials published on this website are of a general nature and have been provided for informational purposes only. Always consult your medical practitioner or a qualified health provider for any further advice in relation to the topics discussed.

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