Mealtimes can be a struggle. Do your children resist new or healthy foods? These are common complaints of many parents. There are creative ways to help broaden your child’s palate and ease any “food frustration” during family mealtimes.
Be the eater you want your child to be.
- Role Model by setting a good example. If you want your child to eat broccoli or other vegetables, you have to eat broccoli or other vegetables. Children will eat foods they are familiar with. It is no surprise that kids will resist new foods. Give them a chance to get used to the new food. When you begin eating the new food, describe the taste and smell so they will be curious to try it.
- A parent’s job is to offer healthy foods. A child’s job is to decide to try the foods – or not. Do not create a battle or make rules over how much food children need to eat – your child will rebel. If you don’t make a big deal out of what they eat (or don’t eat) you will have an easier time.
Bring the kids into the kitchen.
- Get your kids involved in all aspects of preparing a meal or snack from planning, preparing, serving and cleaning up.
- Children who help in the kitchen will try more foods, gain confidence in their abilities, and also become more responsible as they grow.
- Keep it plain because kids might not like foods mixed together or in a casserole, so begin by offering new foods separately.
- Make meal times pleasant by serving meals and snacks at the table and away from distractions. Focus on happy conversation, and not on the food.
- Do not be a short order cook! If your child does not like dinner or does not eat what you have prepared, don’t make a separate meal. Save the uneaten dinner in the refrigerator and reheat if your child is hungry later.
- Offer a familiar food with the meal when you serve new foods at a meal or snack.
- Keep servings small. Do not overwhelm your child by placing large amounts of food on her plate.
- Remember to let your child listen to her own hunger and fullness cues and eat as much or as little as she needs of the good foods you provide to meet her needs.
Food is fun!
- Let your child pick a new or favorite fruit or vegetable at the grocery store.
- Try a new recipe and rename it with your child’s name, such as “Macy’s Roasted Potatoes” or Steve’s Spinach Salad.”
- Make your plate colorful when you plan your meals. That will help your child have input into the meal and be excited about eating the rainbow on the plate!
Changing attitudes about new and healthy food is not always easy, but having fun and being a role model are among the first steps. Try making small, creative changes instead of trying to change everything at once. Once you and your child(ren) have tried broccoli, then on to another food challenge!