Kids' Food Habits Don't Start When They're Babies

baby foodA couple of weeks ago, I started feeding my babies solid foods -- pureed, goopy vegetables that they slurp off of a spoon. And then, wouldn't you know it, a new study came out that suggests that spoon-fed babies are more likely to become overweight, as opposed to babies who practice "baby-led weaning," where they feed themselves pieces of softened veggies, fruits and grains.

Okay, good to know, and I respect the concept: babies should learn how to guide their own eating. But, here's my thing: I don't wanna give my 6-month-old baby a stick of boiled zucchini. Call me neurotic, but the idea of my new, toothless eaters choking scares the bejesus out of me! And here's the other thing: all of these studies on babies and eating habits, with conflicting information and then new info and then old info again -- ack, it's making my head spin! So, at this point, I'm not buying it anymore. Nope, despite what the "studies" say, I don't believe that food issues start when you're a baby.

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Now, let me be clear: I'm a reasonably smart, educated person who definitely does my research. But not every study has merit, and even ones that do, aren't always true across the board. Even this study was done on just 155 children, and it wasn't that all of the spoon-fed children were overweight. No, just more of that group were than those in the "baby-led weaning" group. Well, alright. Apparently the real issue is that when you spoon-feed your baby, you're not always paying attention to their cues, so they might develop more of a propensity to overeat because they're being "programmed" to have one more bite, one more bite. I have a simple solution, and one that was already suggested to me by my pediatrician: when they turn away from the food or become more interested in the spoon than the peas, stop feeding them.

I'll admit that my own babies are chubby -- beautiful, roly-poly cuddle muffins that get the recommended 28 ounces of milk a day. They were born about 5.5 pounds apiece and now they're big and healthy, all of which happened long before I introduced solid foods. Are they going to be chubby for life? I don't know, but if so, I highly doubt it's going to be because I fed them pureed squash instead of the whole, stick form. They are healthy, thriving babies who drink their bottles and are enjoying their mashed-up veggies and that's enough for me!

Of course, it makes logical, practical sense to offer your children a variety of healthy foods, hoping to help them develop a taste for veggies and fruits. But, as I'm sure many parents can attest, just because your child loved spinach as a baby doesn't mean that he's now jonesing for it as an after-school snack. Maybe some kids do, and that's awesome, but I don't think it's because their parents cycled green veggies back into their babies' diets every three days. For the most part, it seems our taste preferences are mostly biological.

Case in point: My brother and I were both weaned on rice cereal and pureed veggies and formula and ate it all...as babies. As young kids though, I still enjoyed fruits and veggies, even fish, while my brother would only eat junk food. They just could not get him to eat the good stuff. My parents were obsessed with only eating healthy foods, so our house was stocked with bran and fruit and vegetables that I was encouraged to eat, while my brother got to snack on chips and cookies. So, when I went to a friend's house, I would go to town on their Oreos and ice cream like a child on crack. As I got older, I started to develop issues with food, sneaking candy when I could, not stopping at just one slice of pizza. To this day, I can't seem to stop when I'm eating junk food -- my "full" switch just does not click on. Meanwhile, my brother ultimately got over his food aversions and now has totally healthy eating habits. So while I've always struggled with my weight, my brother is lean and fit, having never developed any unhealthy obsessions with food. So, if I had to guess, I'd say my experiences as a child shaped my food habits more than what I ate as a baby.

Now, obviously, these are your children and you want to encourage them to eat healthy, organic (when possible) vegetables and fruits and whole grains. Some of it they'll like, some they won't, but you really can't force it. In my opinion and from what I gather, food issues are a little nature and a little nurture -- children are wired with certain food preferences, and they are either fostered or detered as they get older. So do what you feel is best for your children, praise healthy eating and discourage unhealthy habits, but try not to make yourself crazy with one study after the next.

Do you believe a child's food habits totally begin at infancy?

Image via Flickr/jencu



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