By Laura Slatalla, ASU Nutrition Student
We all want our kids to eat their fruits and vegetables and grow up strong and healthy, but why do so many get stuck in a rut heating up some chicken nuggets every night? Kids can be picky eaters. The vegetables get denied. Carrots are tossed on the floor. We don’t want our kids going hungry, so it’s back to the foods they’re guaranteed to eat.
When we pressure a child to eat their vegetables it often has the opposite effect than intended. There’s a psychology behind eating, and even if we have to offer broccoli 50 times before a stalk makes it onto their fork, it can happen.
Here are some tips to helping expand your child’s eating habits that I’ve found work for me.
- Make dessert a part of the meal, rather than a reward. It’s okay if you kid only wants to eat the bowl of ice-cream. If we prize the dessert, the rest of the meal looks less appealing. Forbidden foods are more desirable. We don’t want the entrée to become a chore, but remember to offer desserts in moderation. Serve them in normal portions.
- Let your children help you cook. This sounds like a win-win situation for both parties involved, but sometimes we would rather get things done quickly or are worried about our children hurting themselves. This is a great time to slow down and spend some evening time as a family, while teaching the little ones how food gets prepared. Let them wash the vegetables. As they get older they can cut them up. They can stir. Children are way more likely to try a new food when they lend a hand in preparing it.
- Keep offering the foods they don’t like. It takes toddlers 10 to 15 times to decide if they like something. I’ve heard even higher numbers before, so keep putting it on their plate, even if they don’t eat it.
- Combine flavors they do like with the ones they don’t. Mix the vegetables they won’t eat in with the ones they will. It helps expose the foods in different recipes and combinations. Try sweetening some things, so they associate flavors they enjoy with the new food. They’ll be more likely to try it unsweetened.
- Make eating fun. Add lots of colors and shapes. Try new recipes. Offer a variety. Eating is enjoyable and exciting.
- Snack on fruits and vegetables. If I’m sitting on the couch with a mashed sweet potato my toddler is dying to try some. I do this with other thing she’s reluctant to try because if mom is snacking on it, she wants some too.
Try out a few of these tips to take the pressure off of meal time. Both parties will be more relaxed and one of these days your toddler will be hounding you for your broccoli. The whole family will be on their way to a more balanced diet. Good Luck!