Nine Quick Tips to Raising an Adventurous Eater
Have a picky eater at home? If so, you'll want to read this!
If you’re the parent of an infant or toddler, you may not have encountered Picky Eating… yet. But a conversation with parents of an older child, visit to your daycare center at lunchtime, or evening out with your pre-school- age nephew may give you a glimpse of what’s to come…and it’s not always pretty!
Virtually every young child goes through some level of Picky Eating at one time or another. Parents who have the kids who turn out to be “good eaters” will tell you that the key to successfully navigating these stages is to put firm and healthful eating habits in place from the beginning, and then stick to them, even when the going gets rough.
So if you want to raise children who know the difference between chicken nuggets and Chicken Cordon Bleu – and kids who don’t put up a fight every time a new dish or a vegetable is set before them – start thinking now, in the early eating days, about your food and dining choices. It’s not too early to put these eight quick tips in place:
1. Sit Down! Now is the time to teach that meals play an important role in our day. Make breakfast-lunch-dinner definite sit down-to-eat occasions, even if it’s just for 10 or 15 minutes at a time.
2. Doesn’t This Look Good? Talk it up! Comment on the yummy smells from the oven, or the how pretty and juicy the steak looks. Little kids “eat with their eyes” just like adults do.
3. It’s a Dinner, Not a Diner! And that means, no short order cooking! From earliest eating days, children can and should eat what everyone else at the table is eating.
4. Spice it Up Don’t be afraid to let Toddler sample spicier dishes, like those found in Indian or Mexican cuisines. If it’s really too hot, stir a little milk or sour cream into his or her portion, so that s/he still gets the flavor of the dish, without the full effect of the heat.
5. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat If at first Toddler doesn’t like spinach or Brussels sprouts or broccoli, try, try again. Researchers have found that up to 15 separate introductions of a food may required before it will be accepted by some children. Wait several days or weeks, but don’t drop the offending item out of the menu entirely.
6. Pour Out the Juice Kiddie beverages all have one thing in common: they are sweet, sweet, sweet to the taste. Don’t start your little one off believing that drinks have to be sweet to taste good. Stick to plain milk and water.
7. Nix the Other Kiddie Products Children’s menus in restaurants, children’s cereals and snack foods, packaged toddler meals: If it’s a food product made for and marketed to kids, chances are, it’s going to be inferior in taste and flavor to comparable adult products. Avoid these, and you will be way ahead in the game of preventing picky eating.
8. Keep the Snacks Interesting
One of the biggest pitfalls of most children’s eating is their menu for snack time. It’s so easy – but ultimately defeating – to fall back on packaged products like crackers, applesauce and yogurt. If you’re kids are still snacking, work to make their snacks an interesting part of their eating day. Good cheese, new and various fruits, unflavored Greek yogurt are all better snacks than are standard kiddie foods.
9. Make Food a Positive Part of Your Life.
If you have an interest in food, your children will absorb that, just as they will a policy of eating whatever is available, whenever you are hungry. Start teaching them that food can be a beautiful positive in life: Show them pictures in cookbooks or cooking magazines, take them with you to the farmers market, point out an interesting new restaurant when you drive by.
Most of all, DO NOT GIVE UP. We've all been there. But, the more work you put in now, the (MUCH) easier it will be down the road.