Dr. Greene’s Answer:
Sometime around 9 months of age, many babies begin to think that smooshed baby foods are not where it’s at. They develop an intense desire to eat whatever it is that you are eating. This is a critical part of child development because your child will begin to strongly imprint your health patterns. Eating junk food while offering our children vegetables just doesn’t work.
I can remember the brave little face of my son. Daddy was drinking a cup of coffee. My boy kept asking for a sip. I declined by saying that it tastes yucky to kids and making a face. He persisted, and I gave him a little sip. His face combined shock, disgust, and disappointment. His eyes got big and watered. Then he smiled and said, “More.” It reminded me of the time I smoked a cigar offered to me by an older boy on a scouting trip. Kids’ desire to imitate at this stage is a deep, powerful force. Tap into it.
Many of us have unhealthy habits that we’ve accumulated over the years. The miracle of having a child is often our best opportunity to shed those habits that don’t serve us and to develop new ones that do. Our parenting instincts make it easier to do something for our children that we would not do for ourselves alone. These changes, of course, directly benefit our children as they follow our examples. They also benefit our children by giving them healthy, energetic parents, both now and in the years to come. They add freshness to our marriages or adult relationships. And of course, they are what our own bodies are crying out for.
So when your child begins wanting food from your plate, let it be fresh fruits and vegetables plus whole grains. When he or she wants to taste what you are drinking, let it be something you would be happy for your child to drink. Several new cookbooks on the market offer clever ways to sneak vegetables into children’s favorite foods(Sneaky Chef and Deceptively Delicious). Don’t let your baby’s foray into the world of adult foods be potato chips, French fries, or sugary treats.
Of course, budding toddlers will want some foods that you don’t eat. They won’t take all the ones that you do. Still, don’t miss out on the power of imitation to make healthy eating habits natural for your child. And remember, we can’t give something that we don’t have.