Top tips for picky eating

  • Never force feed. This will only make your little one less likely to accept new foods.
  • Trust your little one’s internal cues. From weaning to toddler teatimes, your little one is gaining autonomy which you should let them express. Parents can worsen fussy eating by encouraging toddlers to eat more than they need. They are more in tune with their hunger cues than we are, so capitalise on that and let them determine how much they’ll eat.
  • You’re the mirror image. Remember that seeing you and your family eating is an integral part to you little one overcoming their fussy habits, so if there is a food they won’t eat include it in the meal and let them see you and your family enjoying it.
  • Keep structured meal and snack times. Ideally this means three meals and two snacks a day, sat together in a comfortable, relaxed environment. Even if your little one refuses to eat anything, it’s important that they see the rest of the family eat at the expected times.
  • Forget ‘finish your plate’. Meal and snack times should be the same duration every time. This sets expectations and means that eating isn’t about finishing your plate, but instead it’s about enjoying the time you sit together and whatever isn’t eaten in that time gets taken away.
  • Don’t draw attention to it. Whatever your little one’s likes and dislikes, try not to focus on it. Eating as a family is about more than just finishing what’s on your plate. Try to enjoy the time together and not give the fussy eating centre stage.
  • Don’t use food as a reward. If you’re little one has eaten something new, reward them with your attention and words.
  • Respect your little one’s preferences. They have different sensory experiences to foods as you, some children love cold foods others hate crunchy foods. It might be helpful to keep a food diary to identify any similarities between the foods being accepted and / or refused. If you see a pattern, try some to add a new food that meets the charactersitics you’ve identified.
  • Tone down, don’t conceal. If you hide refused veggies in other foods, not only do you not accustom your little one to the flavour but if they realise they may feel tricked and become even more resistant. Instead, tone down flavours using herbs, spices or less intense measures, such as cauliflower cheese or broccoli.
  • Enjoy food! Involve your little one in the shopping, preparation and cooking of food.

Dietitians, Nutritionists and Nutritional therapists – what’s the difference?

Registered Dietitians (RD) are regulated by law and the title ‘dietitian’ is protected by statute. To register requires at least a university degree in Nutrition & Dietetics and 1000 hours practical work experience. Dietitians can work clinically within the NHS, working with patients to treat medical conditions, as well as many other areas such as in food industry and freelance.

Registered (Associate) Nutritionists (ANutr/RNutr) meet requirements of the Association for Nutrition (which includes achieving a degree nutrition), and voluntarily register to be governed by them. After 3yrs+ experience ANutr can apply to become RNutr. ANutr & RNutr can work across many areas, but would require additional qualifications to work clinically.

‘Nutritionist’ as a standalone is not a regulated title, it is therefore not governed and there are no educational requirements to use the title.

‘Nutritional Therapist’ is also not a regulated title. Nutritionally Therapists have usually completed a course meeting the National Occupational Standards for Nutritional Therapy (equivalent to level 5 diploma). FHT, CHNC and GRCCT are regulatory bodies that can be voluntarily joined.

Top 10 things to know when weaning

Top ten things to know when weaning

  1. Start weaning at around 6 months, no earlier than 4 months,when your baby is developmentally ready. Signs of readiness include them sitting up and holding their head up, showing interest in your food and reaching out and being able to put a spoon or food in their mouth without them spitting it back out.
  2. Start with veggies, including bitter ones such as spinach, broccoli and avocado. After 1-2 weeks of single veggies you may introduce fruits, carbohydrates (such as bread, pasta and potatoes), proteins (such as beans, lentils, meat and fish) and pasteurised dairy. Remember, it can take up to 10 times for your little one to accept a new food but aiming for a varied diet is good for long-term healthy habits.
  3. Respond to their hunger and fullness cues. Trust them to let you know if they want more or are full and remember that their appetite can be variable, just like ours, so not every day will be the same. As every baby is different there are no portion sizes for weaning but as a guide; start with 1 meal and 1-2 spoonfuls, increasing the number of meals and amount of food gradually with the aim of 3 meals by roughly 10 months.
  4. Explore textures. Starting with pureed food is common, but you can introduce soft finger foods and progress to lumpier textures from around 7 months. You’re aiming for them to be eating similar textured foods to the rest of the family by 12 months but go at their pace and allow for mess, as your baby’s physical touch of the food is important to acceptance.
  5. Include iron-rich foods. One of the reasons solids are introduced at 6 months is because your baby’s iron stores are used up. Plant-based sources of the nutrient include dark green leafy vegetables, lentils and beans whilst animal-based sources include meat and fish. Try to include a variety of these.
  6. Include allergenic foods, unless your baby has known allergies or is at high risk (speak to your healthcare practitioner if you’re unsure). Introducing commonly allergenic foods, such as peanuts and hen’s eggs, later than 12 months has been shown to increase risk of allergies later in life. Introduce these one at a time and in very small amounts so you can monitor for a reaction.
  7. Know the foods to avoid, these are:
    • Salty and sugary foods, and adding salt or sugar to foods you’re preparing
    • Unpasteurised and soft cheeses (eg brie, roquefort and camembert)
    • Raw shellfish as well as shark, swordfish and marlin
    • Ducks & quails eggs must be well cooked, as should hen’s eggs unless british lion quality
    •  Honey until the age of 1
    • Low fat foods
  8. Know the difference between choking and gagging. Babies have a very sensitive gag reflex which means gagging can be a regular occurrence, but it’s important to remember that it’s normal. However, take the time to learn the differences between choking and gagging and what to do in the event of choking for peace of mind.
    • Top tips to avoid choking include: ·      
      • Weaning when ready
      • Never leave your baby unsupervised whilst eating
      • Avoid foods that are high choking risks, such as:
        • Whole nuts & seeds (serve these ground), raw jelly cubes, small & dried fruits such as grapes and cherries (serve these chopped), raw & hard foods such as carrots (soft cook these as finger foods) and remove tough skins, pips and seeds from fruits
  1. Keep drinks simple. Introduce a free flowing beaker of water at mealtimes. Other than this, only breastmilk or their infant formula should be given throughout weaning.
  2. What about supplements? If they receive <500ml infant formula per day, a vitamin A,C and D supplement is advised.

This post was originally written for Mia & Ben

Weaning 101: Choking vs gagging

Whether your little one is starting on pureed foods, finger foods or both, a common concern for parents is choking.

Babies have a very sensitive gag reflex which means gagging can be a regular occurrence, but it’s important to remember that it’s normal. In response, remain calm and allow your little one to respond naturally, and never try and fish the food out as this risks pushing it further in and causing a choking hazard.

The trouble lies in differentiating gagging from choking, which is far more serious, and the key is sound. Gagging means your little one will be coughing and spluttering, therefore air is getting through. When choking, the airway is blocked and no sound can be made, requiring immediate attention. For instructions and videos on how to respond to this, head to the Red Cross page here. There are also some excellent first aid courses that parents like to attend for peace of mind. 

As well as being prepared with the knowledge of what to do should choking occur, here are a few other important recommendations to reduce the risk of choking:

  • Avoid foods that are high choking risks, such as:
    • Whole nuts (which shouldn’t be given to your little one before 5 years) 
    • Whole small fruits, such as grapes and cherries – chop these up before serving
    • Dried fruits. Again, you can chop these up and serve
    • Raw, hard foods, such as carrots, which can easily be broken and form a choking hazard. Soften these by cooking before serving.
    • Remove tough skins, pips & seeds from foo
  • Wean when ready, not before 4-6months. If you’re unsure, ask your health care provider
  • Ensure your baby is always sat upright when eatin
  • Never leave your little one unsupervised whilst eating

This post was originally written for Mia & Ben

Weaning 101: Signs of readiness

UK guidelines recommend starting to wean when your baby is around 6 months old, and no earlier than 17 weeks old. At this age, your baby’s digestive system, kidneys and nerves (which all play an important role) should have developed enough for them to start with solid foods.

Every baby is different, so it’s important to be familiar with the signs of readiness that mean they’re developmentally ready. These include:

  • Sitting up and holding their head up with limited support
  • Showing interest in your food and reaching for it
  • Allowing you to put a spoon in their mouth without them spitting it back out

There are some other behaviours that can be mistaken for readiness, such as your baby being hungrier, putting their fist in their mouth, or waking in the night, but these are simply a sign of growth and teething.

As always, if you’re unsure, speak to your health care practitioner for help and advice.

Weaning 101: What is ‘weaning’?

Weaning is when your baby is ready to start on solid foods, usually at around 6 months of age and no earlier than 4 months. It’s sometimes called ‘complementary feeding’, as it complements breast milk or infant formula to provide additional nutrients and diversity.

Up until this point, milk has been nutritionally sufficient, as your baby has stores of the nutrients it doesn’t provide. However, these stores are getting used up, so it’s time to think about which foods can best provide these missing pieces… like iron!

As well as being nutritionally important, weaning is also important for your baby’s physical and mental development. Motor skills and coordination will develop with the introduction of solids (working out just how to get that food into their mouth!), and chewing uses the same muscles required for speech.

Whilst suckling and sucking are inherent behaviours, munching and chewing are actually learned behaviours that require exposure to different types of textures to develop!

Since munching is possible from around 4 months and chewing from around 7 months, the textures of foods introduced at these stages are different. It’s necessary to remember, however, that the ages advised are averages and every baby is different!

This post was originally written for Mia & Ben

Weaning 101: Milk & Drinks

First things first, use only open or free-flow cups when giving your little one a drink to protect their teeth.

In terms of what should go into that cup, from 6-12 months only water and breast milk or infant formula should be offered with or between meals. Other options, such as fizzy drinks, flavoured milks, fruit juices and smoothies, have a high sugar content and risk causing tooth decay. 

It’s important to note that ‘Follow-on’ formula is not necessary if you’re weaning well, as the nutrients that it is fortified with your baby will now be getting from solid foods. If you are using infant formula rather than breastmilk it might be that you need to supplement this with water in hotter months (breastmilk will adapt to ensure the water content is sufficient).

Whilst only breast milk, infant formula or water are appropriate drinks, full fat cow’s, goat’s or sheep’s milk can be used in cooking. It is just advised that milk alternatives – soya, almond, oat, coconut etc. – are avoided until 1 year unless you’re advised to use plant-based alternatives by a healthcare professional eg. if your little one has cow’s milk protein allergy. 

At 1-year, when your baby should be getting the majority of their nutritional needs from food, whole cow’s milk can be introduced as a drink and/or breastmilk continued. Unsweetened, fortified milk alternatives can also be offered as drinks now and infant formula is no longer necessary. However, rice milk is an exception to the other plant-based milks and should not be introduced until age 5.

This blog was originally written for Mia & Ben