When you were a kid, did your parents ever tell you, “You will grow big and strong if you eat your vegetables?” Have you now found yourself repeating this to your own children? Now, the real question is, did it work?
So many kids today don’t want to try different foods, and it is becoming a big problem in homes. Often, parents find themselves working to improve their own lifestyles and diets, but the smaller versions of themselves have a completely different plan. Research shows that children learn and perform better when, among other things, they eat healthy, nutrient-rich foods. So here’s the million-dollar question... how do we get the healthy food from the plate, into their mouths, when they aren’t always interested?
The answer: We adapt! We must learn their likes and dislikes and study them as their taste buds evolve from year to year, month to month, and yes… sometimes, even day to day. There are all kinds of “hacks,” suggestions and opinions on how to get a child to eat what you place in front of them. But we must always remember that each child is different. If your child vocalizes their discontent with the new, mysterious green vegetable in front of them, listen to their reasons, validate those reasons and find a way to compromise. After all, the goal is for them to ENJOY healthy foods, so don’t push too hard.
Try some creative ways to encourage new foods.
- Blend pureed cauliflower in with mashed potatoes.
- Pan-fry finely chopped broccoli and make little mounds to look like tater tots.
- Freeze pureed fruit in with yogurt or 100% fruit juice and make popsicles or pudding pops.
Make new healthy foods more fun. I remember giving my son one bean at a time, all the while smiling as if it were a game, until his serving slowly disappeared. And if you are offering something new, offer a food that is familiar along with the new food to lessen your child’s anxiety.
Don’t give up! If your child doesn’t like the new food the first time, try again in a few weeks. Research has shown us that a child can try a food up to 10 times before they decide if they truly like it or not.
Finally, lead by example! If your child sees you eating a healthy heaping of Brussels sprouts, or a freshly chopped salad, they may be more likely to try it themselves! The goal is to encourage your child to enjoy a variety of healthy foods early so they will maintain healthy eating choices throughout their lives!