Blank Canvas

How would you fill a blank canvas?

Babies are a blank canvas when it comes to food and moms are the artists. During the first years of life, infants learn what, when and how much to eat. They start to develop tastes for favorites based on what foods are offered to them.

If your infant is 6 months old, a blank canvas awaits you. At this age, babies have only tasted breastmilk or formula, the sole nutrition needed for the first six months. The foods you choose after six months serve as the foundation for future eating patterns. It is a big responsibility, one that can affect your children for the rest of their lives.

What foods best belong on babies’ blank canvas? Check out the recommendations below:

Offer foods without added salt. Offering foods without added salt sounds drastic, right? Will children eat food without it? Babies are not born with a strong preference for salt. They learn to prefer it if they are offered salty foods early in life, leading to a lifelong preference for the taste.

While it sounds simple to just serve food without added salt, it can be a challenge. Moms often sample foods before offering it to babies, just to be sure it tastes good. Moms are not blank canvases. They often have developed preferences for salty foods after years of eating packaged foods and generous use of saltshakers. What tastes good for moms may not taste good to babies and may set them on the path of salt cravings. Consider foods with no added salt a gift to your baby.

Offer foods without sugar. Parents show love with food, especially sugary foods. Ice cream, cookies, cakes and candy are all common “treats” from both parents and grandparents because they love to see children smile. Giving sugary foods to young children can develop a sweet tooth early in life, potentially leading to weight issues later.

Moms are realistic. As much as they plan to offer only no-sugar added foods, birthday celebrations and family gatherings happen. Let the good times roll, then resolve to return to offering foods low in sugar.

What foods are best for children? Fresh, frozen or canned vegetables are all favorites. Drain and rinse canned vegetables to cut back on salt. Fruits can also be fresh, frozen or canned. Look for low- or no-sugar options. Unprocessed foods are likely to have little or no salt or sugar added.

What keeps people from offering no-salt and no-sugar added foods? Logically, all moms would give their babies sugar- and salt-free foods. After all, they want their “masterpiece” to be on a good path for life. That is when it gets complicated. Daily ads try to convince moms that salty and sugary foods are important to having a fun and loving childhood. Moms start to think of themselves as unloving if they “deny” their children what they think they need and want, lots of salty and sugary foods.

The good news is that sweet and salty foods do not define a happy childhood. Shared love and good times lead to happy memories and connected families, not sugary or salty foods. Keep your eye on the prize, a healthy child.

These mom-tested tips may help you give your baby “masterpiece” a firm foundation for life.

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