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It is very important to develop healthy eating habits much early for the kids. I always see moms struggling to feed the kids, running behind them with a katori of mashed or ground porridge trying to make them eat! I don't know why they do that. In fact, I feel the more you force the food on your kid, the more they are likely to refuse eating!
Till the baby is 6 months old, never try giving anything other than breast milk. The baby is too young to digest anything else! If the mom's working and away most of the time, you can pump and store the milk and get that to feed the baby. Formula milk should be avoided or only as per the doctor's instruction.
Once the baby is 6 months plus, may be you can get your doctor's opinion on what else can be given. I had started on soft solids such as mashed bananas and rice with curd by the time my son was 8 months. We let him take small bites of the bananas and encouraged him to chew it. He had lactose intolerance and hence I was advised to keep him away from cow's milk. Instead I used to feed him soya formula once every day. My doctor asked me not to feed cooked oats too as it may not digest for babies! So I used to feed him small mashed pieces of everything we made at home. Soaked chappathi, dosa, idli, rice with rasam and boiled veggies, freshly made soups and lots of curd. The only thing I used to make separately for my son was the vegetable rice so that I could mix all types of veggies along with rice, salt and turmeric along with a pinch of pepper and mash it and feed my son. I have never ground the food, instead mashed it nicely with fingers so that it stays a little pulpy and he would develop a chewing habit too! It really worked with us as he would eat whatever made at home.
And no stuffing the mouth totally! Let them take small bites and chew them properly and finish before they take in the next round. This way, they can chew the food, which is important for digestion and also relish the flavours.
Don't run behind
That's another issue with toddlers! Moms and grandmoms can be seen running behind the kids with the katori and spoon making them eat. This can be a big issue later on when they go to school! Instead, make them sit along with you on the table. If you have a baby chair, make sure you feed the baby only on that. Never run behind them. If you start early, you can develop this habit. Insist on feeding only if they sit in a chair or on the dining table. They may resist initially, but will surely come our way when they get hungry. It can be tough when they are not well and cranky. But you can feed the most difficult to handle child by telling interesting stories! That'll make the feeding time more interesting. And NEVER EVER SWITCH ON THE TV TO FEED.
Don't Force Feed
If the kid is hungry, he / she will come asking for food. My son is 11 now and I have so far never force fed him! If he's not hungry, I just let him be. Another hour or so, he will come to me asking for food. The more you force, the more the child is likely to refuse eating. Its human nature! Instead, try to find out what kind of tastes they love. Make them eat everything you make at home. Just make sure they are not very spicy or too oily.
Most of the kids see what's being made and served on television and at restaurants. While we cannot make all those things exactly the way made and served at the restaurants, you can try present the food in a more fun way. For example, my son would sometimes refuse to eat rice as he eats it every day. When he was much younger, we would make small balls out of cooked rice, top it with a piece of veggie and decorate and give. It would be bite-sized so we will encourage him to eat as many balls as he can! That did the trick. Then came Chota Bheem and his ladoos. Add a pinch of turmeric to the rice and it looks like ladoos!
Similarly, don't give too bland food for the kids. They may not like it. Let it not be as spicy as we eat. You can keep a little aside for the child before you add spice to the food. Don't feed them special food every time. Let them taste all type of food we make at home. Let them eat on their own! It might make the table a little messy but once they are in school, they have to eat on their own. Nobody will run behind them feeding them at school.
We are vegetarians and hence never gave him egg or non-veg though my son ate every vegetable made at home. As he turned 4, doctor suggested we give him eggs too and since then he's taking eggs too. Being vegetarian is perfectly fine with small kids. Once they are old enough to eat on their own, they can start trying out the other stuff too!
Avoid packaged / Outside food
This is very important! Till my son was 2 I have always carried his food to the restaurants where we ate. A little curd rice or a couple of chappathi-rolls would do! And no packaged food too! No noodles, no pasta and no bread too (unless you have baked it at home)! We are the ones introducing them to all types of food they crave for.
Once they are old enough to understand, talk to them about the evils of packaged food. Show them the articles you can search online that showcase the ill-effects of packaged food. It is quite ok to indulge once in a while. But having noodles or pastries every week is only going to put your kid in big time trouble. It is possible as my 11 year old never insists on aerated drinks, pastas or noodles, deep fried snacks, or even packaged snacks such as lays and the rest! We don't deny all these altogether. He knows the ill-effects and we do let him eat them once in a couple of months or when we are travelling! He knows the limit and happily obliges!
Please Do Not
These are all tried and proven tips as far as I am concerned. The best way to clear doubts is to ask your pediatrician! We can listen to the elders but a lot of old customs we follow have been proven of no use, the best example being milk!!! The doctors today would never suggest forcing your kid to drink milk. Most of us can only get packaged milk which may be more harmful than healthy. But there are some good points too, as my mom never let me grind my son's food in mixie and insisted on mashing it with finger and feeding which really helped him develop the chewing habit. She also insisted giving him normal food we ate at home which made my life much simpler and he eats everything now!