02/23/2012 05:12 pm ET Updated Apr 24, 2012

Put Away That Blender -- Feed Your Baby Real Solids

We've heard it hundreds of times -- "feeding baby pureed food is best." In fact, mothers that do puree "adult" foods and pass it on to their weaning babies usually proudly declare they are doing "what's best for the child." What's more, compared to other mothers that choose processed and bottled store-bought baby food, the pureed-food moms are coveted in mom circles around the world. But these angelic mothers feeding their babies mashed-up wholesome goodness may not be doing what's best for their little ones after all.

A new study published in BMJ Open shows that the type of solid foods given to babies makes all the difference in their future eating habits. In fact, researchers learned that when babies are left to their own devices at weaning time, they tend to choose diets that are higher in carbohydrate content as opposed to sugary foods.

It turns out this may be the key to early development of strong positive nutritional habits. The study, conducted by psychologists at the University of Nottingham involved 155 subjects from their on-site Toddler Lab at the School of Psychology plus some recruited from websites. Ninety-two parents allowed their babies to self-wean with solid finger foods chosen by the babies themselves. The other 63 parents adopted the traditional method of spoon-feeding pureed foods, increasing texture and solidity of the food as the children grew older.

The surprising results indicated that within the three major food groups (carbohydrates, protein and dairy) babies that had pureed food has a preference for sweet foods. Conversely, the baby-led weaned children most gravitated to healthy carbohydrates. This penchant for healthier food choices is promising because until now researchers believed the most significant factors in nutritional palate have been both sweetness and frequency of exposure.

Dr. Nicola Pitchford, one of the authors of the study, said, "Baby-led weaning promotes healthy food preferences in early childhood which may protect against obesity."

This could potentially be the key to breaking away from our children wanting unhealthy foods like McDonald's Apple Pie, with 13 grams of fat plus 13 grams of sugar, and 260 calories (117 calories from fat). If we simply allow our babies to chew on small, finger-sized bites of REAL apple, they would be getting 53 calories and 13 grams of all-natural sugar (each apple).

It comes as no surprise, then, to find that there were higher obesity rates in those children that were spoon-fed rather than be allowed to let nature guide their preferences. The win-win situation here is that not only can these children enjoy benefits of healthy eating from the beginning, but they also may be helping to ward off the health risks associated with a high BMI later on.

Perhaps the best fringe benefit of a little change early on is that these kids will enjoy lifelong intrinsic benefits of being healthy from within. Having learned from early on to make quality choices rather than be forced to choose the better options, true nutritional wellness will be ingrained in them.

The moral of this story? There is no reason why modern technological advances need to get in the way of what our prehistoric ancestors have been doing all along. Let your baby choose the foods that nature intended for them to eat in the first place. If we constantly stand in the way of nature doing its job, we will have to prepare ourselves to accept the unnatural. Remove the quality and realness of nutrition from our lives and an unnatural health outlook is imminent -- childhood obesity, juvenile diabetes, increased risk of heart attacks, hypertension and stroke later in life. But most of all, we stand to impart on our future generations a general lack of healthy living.

Why not start now while ahead?

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