This is the eleventh installment in our series on reducing your baby's allergy risk. If you missed the tenth installment, read it here, or jump back to the During Pregnancy, First 24 Hours, Only Breastfeeding, or Starting Solids installments.
In this lesson, we'll discuss how to plan your meals around your infant's eating schedule and creating a plan that works for your family.
A lot of people choose to feed their baby, finish bath time, and then sit down with their partner to eat dinner. But eating with your baby as a family has a lot of benefits.
The Family That Eats Together Grows Together
The day your baby starts eating solid foods is the day you’ll start to see the benefits of eating as a family. While it’s easy to get tunnel-vision when it comes to your adorable baby, the best thing you can do is to treat them like a member of the family.
Here are some of the benefits of eating family meals with your baby:
- Children who eat family meals typically eat healthier. A study found children who ate with their families were more likely to eat fruits and vegetables. Making your baby’s food before your’s often leads parents to use pre-packaged foods or snack foods that are less healthy than what they eat themselves.
- Eating with your baby, and eating the same thing as your baby, is a perfect chance to introduce foods with different flavors, textures, and spices. A recent study showed that people’s saliva changes as they repeatedly eat bitter foods, making them taste less bitter. The fastest way to get your baby to like fresh kale is to feed it to them frequently. This is also the easiest way to make sure they are getting regular servings of all the allergens you eat.
- The conversations between adults at your family meals ensures your baby is hearing more words and beginning to see how people interact with each other. Children who watch their parents engaging with each other are quicker to learn proper social interaction with their peers, and hearing more words expands their vocabulary faster.
- Watching you eat with proper table manners and using a fork and knife helps children learn, even before they have the skills, to mimic the movements and learn to eat.
How to Work Family Meals Into a Kid Schedule
Unfortunately, eating a family dinner at 5:30 before bath time at 6 is simply unrealistic for many families. Here are some alternative options & notes:
- The family meal doesn’t have to be dinner. Get together for a 15 minute shared breakfast. Talk about your day, plans for the evening, or the weather, and set your baby’s day off on the right foot.
- Try weekends. If weeknight dinners are not possible, weekend meals together are a great alternative. In fact, eating together 3 times a week has almost the same effect as eating together every day.
- Meal prep. Doing meal prep on weekends, chopping vegetables ahead of time, or buying pre-packed herbs and garlic can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to make a healthy meal.
In truth, 15 minutes is all it takes. Family meals don’t have to be a Norman Rockwell painting with full place settings. Some families eat a short course while their baby is awake, and then have the remainder of the meal when there is more time.
How to Make Family Meals Safe for Your Baby
Use the handy guide below to puree or chop your family meals into a form that’s safe for your baby!