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Homegrown with Hope: Healthy Eating Habits for Life

BISMARCK, N.D. – Our journey through solid foods started out a little discouraging as dinner time became a test for both of us in patience. I began wondering, “is this normal?”

Dr. Amy Juelson, pediatrician at Mid Dakota Clinic says it is.

“Don’t worry too much,” she reassured me.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you don’t try to feed your baby when they don’t want it. That can lead to some aversions to some food,” said Dr. Juelson.

She even says some foods could take 10 to 15 attempts before baby accepts it. So, we stuck it out with the green beans and what felt like 10 to 15 attempts later, we finished a bowl.

We started by practicing with an iron-fortified single grain cereal, as Dr. Juelson recommended. Then, we ventured out to grocery store where aisles are stacked high with choices: organic, multi-ingredient, pouches, puffs and wafers.

“I think the less processed food you have, the better. Any of the single-ingredient baby foods or any of the purees are all going to be good,” she said.

Dr. Juelson says you don’t have to get caught up in the labels. She says there’s no definitive research proving organic baby foods are any better for infants than a more economical choice, that she doesn’t have a preference over buying a puree or doing it yourself. She even put to rest that old saying that introducing fruits before vegetables will get kids hooked on sugar.

“What I find is most infants try everything by the time they’re one. There are a few picky ones out here, but you don’t ruin your child’s chances at good food by picking one over the other,” said Dr. Juelson.

She wants parents to know the guidelines concerning peanuts and allergies have changed. Doctors used to tell parents to wait until a child is a year old before trying peanuts, or peanut butter mixed with milk. Now, they say it’s recommended to start peanut anywhere between four and six months. She recommends checking with your child’s doctor beforehand, if you have a family history of peanut allergy or if your baby has eczema.

But in all, the early years are about experimenting and having fun with foods, which will help them down the road.

“Kids start to form their habits at a very young age. If parents are starting the good habits at home, it’s so much easier at school,” Joan Knoll, a registered dietitian at Bismarck Public Schools, said.

Knoll said she makes it her mission to help students eat healthier because studies show it helps them do better in school.

She teaches the USDA’s My Plate as the new guidelines to helping parents pack healthy lunches, recommending to keep it handy during meal prep to make sure you check off all the important food groups.

But, when life is too busy to fill a brown bag with healthy foods, school cafeterias are serving meals modeled after the My Plate.

“It will ensure that your student gets the nutrients they need at that meal. Sometimes, you know, packed lunches won’t have the healthiest items, but you can rely on it at school,” she said.

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