We’ve been reading a lot about moms complaining about kids not eating the right amounts of veggies or fruits, and their kids only wanting to eat the same plate repeatedly. It is frustrating when your kid only wants to eat the same chicken nugget and grilled cheese sandwich. We, as parents, are always concerned about the nutrition of our kids and if they are having the right amounts and nutrients to their healthy development. We also want them to try new flavors and foods they can enjoy.
But why are kids often so picky about trying foods?
Long story short, and if you didn’t know, it all started when they were babies. At that time, babies are only drinking breast milk or formula, that is why they develop a preferred taste on sweets. Afterwards, we start to introduce solids, one flavor at a time and their first reaction is not always the best. Then we start mixing them. Here is when their taste starts to change, and we are constantly developing new tastes and preferences over time. So, just because a child or even you didn’t like something the first time you tried it, doesn’t mean that you won’t like it for life. There are some foods that you probably didn’t eat when you were a kid but that you like now.
What can we do about it? Here are 5 strategies that we have tried ourselves and succeed:
1. Set the example – remember your child will follow your example and is looking up to you.
I love to eat salad for lunch and/or dinner, and what I usually did was playing with my kids that they wanted to take away my salad. They loved it and they always won by “stealing” my lettuce or carrots and eating them, so that I couldn’t have any. The game started as that and now while they have their own serving, they play for me not to steal theirs. It is quite entertaining, and they now have salad as part of their everyday food.
2. Sell it – as if you’re having the meal of your life.
When you offer a new food, sell it as if it is the best food you have ever tried. Describe it, talk about how delicious it smells, and tastes, and, if appropriate, describe the textures as detailed as possible. Kids are paying attention to everything you do and the reactions you show towards everything, so if you are putting aside your broccoli, well, there you go, they will do the same. (Remember strategy No. 1!)
3. Get creative with the foods – try a tiny peace, mix it or separate ingredients.
You don't have to start from scratch when encouraging kids to try a variety of foods.For instance, you can start by trying a pea, and then a few. Or if your child doesn’t like cauliflower, but likes chocolate, you can try our famous cauliflower chocolate pudding. This dessert can be a starter into the flavor and texture, and then gradually you can introduce it alone or in other meals, have you tried cauliflower pizza dough? Really good, for example.
4. Involve kids in meal planning.
Put your kids growing interest in exercising control to good use. Let your kid know what he/she will be having for lunch, what you all will be having for dinner or read kid-friendly cookbooks together and let your child listen to the different options and pick out new recipes to try.
5. Be patient and persistent.
Forcing kids to try something new can lead to power struggles and makes kids more anxious about meals.
Instead, be patient and keep on offering new foods gently and frequently. Always try the different food groups. You may have to offer a food up to 14 times (some studies say up to 20, but as said, don’t get discouraged, some kids may take fewer than that) before your picky eater will like it.
These are just a few strategies that we have tried and have worked fine in our family. Some could work with yours, and it is worth a try. The best part of parenting is that we are doing everything with love for our kids, congratulate yourself for all the effort your putting into your kid’s nutrition and healthy eating habits. They will thank you for that in the long run maybe when they are all grown-ups, take care of themselves and offer YOU more adventurous food without hesitating.
Smart Snackz family