That’s it ! Our child finally masters the gesture: the spoon navigates from the plate to the mouth without too many failures, managing to satisfy both his desire for independence and his little ogre appetite. After lunch, his place still looks a bit like a “battlefield”, but no matter, a real milestone has been passed.
Baby can then join the family table. What a symbol! Particularly in France, where the family meal is a real socio-cultural landmark, of unity, cohesion and exchange. In our country, 89% of children eat with their parents, 75% before 8 p.m. and 76% at set times. But giving a meal is not just feeding our child. It is also necessary to be attentive to its gustatory pleasure, to the ludo-educational aspect, and to the interaction with the family, which then takes on all its importance and participates actively in the education of the child… A whole program !
Meals: at what age can a baby be placed at the adult table?
To around 2 years old, baby becomes autonomous in his gestures and can be seated at the table, with the adults, during the meal. But his admission to the table of the big ones should not change the content of his plate! Let’s stay vigilant: from 1 to 3 years old, he has specific nutritional needswho deserve to be concerned about their diet.
Many parents think they are doing the right thing by feeding the youngest like the rest of the family, once the food diversification is over. Often, the integration of the child at the table of the adults is a source of dietary excesses, generating deficiencies and excesses for the organism of a toddler.
However, although appetizing and seemingly balanced, our menus are rarely suitable for toddlers. Of course, there are vegetables in this gratin, but there is also melted cheese, ham, a savory béchamel… What if we took the opportunity to rethink the overall diet of the family?
Meals with baby: the family must adapt
It is not because our child joins the table of the big ones that we have to zap the essentials of nutrition. Here are some rules to pin on the fridge. At the top of the list, no added salt! Of course, when we’re cooking for the whole family, with our palates accustomed to salt, it’s tempting to put some in the preparation… or even, to add it to the dish once on the plate! But many foods contain salt naturally. If the family dish seems bland to us, it’s only because our adult taste buds are saturated . Let’s not forget that eating less salt prevents the risk of obesity and hypertension.
On the iron side, nothing to do between the child and the adult: to meet their iron needs and avoid the beginning of a deficiency (this is the case for one in three small pieces, after 6 months), they need 500 ml growing-up milkper day. So at breakfast, we do not switch to cow’s milk, even if the brothers and sisters consume it.
Conversely, on the protein side (meat, eggs, fish), we often tend to give in excess and exceed the necessary quantities. A single portion per day (25-30 g) is sufficient before 2 years.
Regarding sugars, children have a clear preference for sweet flavors, but do not know how to moderate their consumption. Again, why not change family habits? We limit desserts, cakes, sweets… And we end the meal with fruit instead!
Ditto for mayonnaise and ketchup (fatty and sweet), fried foods and ready meals for adults, but also low-fat products. Baby needs lipids, of course, but not just any. These are the essential fatty acids that will ensure the nutritional balance of our children. They can be found in breast milk, growing-up milk, “raw” oils, that is to say unrefined, virgin and first cold-pressed oils, cheeses, etc.
Finally, at the table, we drink water, just water, no syrup. Sparkling water and sodas are to be avoided before the age of 3, then to be limited to exceptional festive occasions.
DME (Child-Led Diversification): Shall we give it a try?
The meal: a family ritual
Does your toddler amuse the table with his babbling and his cheeks smeared with mashed potatoes? He wants to taste everything and imitate his big sister who handles the fork like a chef? So much the better, it makes him progress! We are, for him, models: he will imitate our way of holding ourselves, of eating… Our tastes therefore determine his own: if Dad and Mum do not eat vegetables at home, the children are not likely to dream…
Furthermore, avoid dining with the television on as much as possible. Sharing meals with the family promotes the consumption of fruits and vegetables, therefore a more diversified diet. When you’re not watching a screen while eating, you take more time to chew each bite, which aids digestion.
Of course, at the table, it can become a joyful mess! We have to be careful to listen to everyone’s stories, young and old alike, to prevent arguments and whining… But despite our busy schedules, we must try to create this ritual, every day, if you can, or at least once a week. A joint meal is also a moment during which we take stock of our activities, where everyone is valued in their field. Let’s also insist on good manners, but without overdoing it, so as not to spoil the meal! Let’s make it good times, let the food be associated with good memories. It strengthens the bonds in the family. Let’s play !