Absolutely! We now know that eating habits and relationships with food developed prior to your child’s 2nd birthday are likely to be what he carries through into adulthood. So a diet laden with deep-fried food and sugary beverages, and eaten in excess (overriding fullness cues), especially to overcome boredom or emotional needs rather than hunger, can and does result in significantly higher rates of weight-related issues.
Conversely, healthy eating habits developed before his 2nd birthday can and do remain with him for life! Learning what is healthy, how to develop and enjoy preferences for these foods, when to respond to cues of fullness to promote appetite regulation, and why to not offer foods as rewards and/or for anything other than hunger, are all imperative. Guiding your child through these skills will ensure he has the start in life he deserves. [12, 16, 17, 23, 24, 30, 52, 60, 69, 85]
Establishing healthy eating habits is a learnt behaviour, just like learning to read. We don’t just pick up a book and instantly know how to make sense of the symbols on the page. We start with letters, then words, and then eventually string them together to form sentences. It’s the same with eating. Start with natural foods, encourage plenty of practice and repetition, offer variety and complexity, and the result is a healthy equation of vegetables, wholegrains and fruit, and habits and preferences that are with us for life. [30, 50, 58, 60, 70]
We know that babies are born with an ingrained preference for sweet and salty. However, the start of complementary feeding is a very sensitive and malleable period in an infant’s development. With the right exposure and experiences to a wide variety of healthy foods, he can and will develop lifelong healthy food preferences. Unfortunately, this also means that if an infant’s first exposures are limited to sugary processed foods, these can also enhance a lifelong preference to these foods. It is therefore important for caregivers to capitalize on this window of opportunity to introduce a wide variety of healthy nutritious foods and build healthy preferences. [4, 11, 14, 42, 50, 86] A spoonful is all that is required as this is about exposure to different tastes, not nutrition or to satisfy hunger (that is the role of milk in this early phase). [5, 13] The focus is very much on taste experiences and building the foundations for healthy preferences.
It is also a huge advantage that by the time that solids do play an important role for nutritional requirements  (somewhere between 6 and 7 months), he has a good grasp and preference for these foods. If all he has been exposed to up until this point is sweet fruit and infant cereal you are more likely going to struggle to transition to healthier, more nutrient-dense alternatives.
Trying something new is a challenge, even something as simple as eating. Like anything else new in their world, they will be looking to you for guidance and emotional support. They need to feel comfortable, familiar, and safe, in order to accept the new challenge and make it a happy experience. Therefore:
Nutrient-filled spoonfuls of flavor! As he approaches 6 to 7 months his nutritional demands to support and optimize healthy growth and development are high, and are no longer able to be met by his milk feeds . However, his tummy is still very small so it is important not to fill it up with nutritionally ‘empty’ foods. Most of us interpret malnutrition to be ‘not enough food’ and a Third-World problem. But malnutrition is rife right here in our ‘land of plenty,’ as children are not ingesting food with the best nutrients. Even at a healthy weight (and indeed overweight), an individual can suffer from malnutrition if their diet is limited to a select handful of foods, or the wrong foods (often at the expense of nutrient-dense foods  and milk feeds). It is therefore important to consider all his nutritional needs, now and going forward, not only in terms of flavor, but also composition.
By 6 to 7 months, his nutritional needs can no longer be filled by milk alone and the inclusion of nutrient-dense foods  is a must. It becomes hugely apparent that capitalizing on the window between 5 and 6 months  to prime his palate with a wide variety of healthy savory flavors pays dividends. To be able to hit the ground running at 6 to 7 months with him already accepting these nutritious foods will ensure his nutrient needs to optimize growth and development are met. Adequate nutrition to optimize growth and development will not come from apple puree and infant cereal ! Although milk remains an important component of his diet, so do nutrient-rich foods, high in iron  and zinc, and balanced in good sources of fats , proteins , and carbohydrates .
Although a newborn’s brain is only one quarter of the size of an adult’s, it grows to about 80% by age 3 and reaches 90% of an adult brain size by age 5. In order for this growth and development to be optimized it must be supplied with the appropriate nutrition. The brain dominates the body’s metabolism in early life, consuming two-thirds of all calories his body uses at rest. His brain is growing faster than any other time in his life, and optimal nutrition is required to support this rapid growth and development . A diet rich in iron  and good fats , will ensure the best foundation for cognitive abilities, motor skills, and socio-emotional development.
Healthy fats are an essential part of a healthy diet for babies. In fact, 40 to 50% of their energy intake should be coming from a good source . Fats are needed to support optimal brain development, build strong immune systems, and to absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). Healthy sources include red meat, chicken, fish (especially oily species such as salmon), avocado, olive/coconut oil, bone broth, and cheese (from 8 months). Fat also provides an important function with the mouth feel, texture, and flavor of food, reinforcing the positive messaging with these foods.
All FAQ [numbers] relate to our references and sources, click here to view.
Disclaimer: The information provided is the opinion of Good Feeding, it has not been evaluated by healthcare professionals, and is for educational purposes only. Before starting any new foods or feeding practices, please consult your baby's healthcare professional.