How to raise an adventurous eater
Mary Brophy | | 0 comments
It may seem like a pipe dream right now, but your child has the potential to fall in love with all kinds of food. And from my own experience I know that the more adventurous my children eat, the more likely they are to be consuming a balanced and nutritious diet.
After years of experience with my own children I came up with these 8 tips to help your child create positive relationships with food and become a more adventurous eater.
Breastmilk or an alternate infant formula is all that babies need until around six months. However, the second half of a baby’s first year of life is the stage when he or she learns much about food and family eating. This is the window of time when babies are curious and keen to find out about new foods.
Take advantage of this window and introduce a variety of textures, tastes and smells. At their first birthday you should aim to have your baby eating the same foods as the rest of the family — wouldn’t that be nice?
But don’t blame yourself or be discouraged if that does not work, some babies are more enthusiastic than others to try new foods (as I soon found out).
While one of my twins would practically lunge at the spoon offered to her, the other would spit most of it out. I kept offering her a variety of food and today I would say she is almost an adventurous eater.
Serve a variety
A varied diet means offering foods from all the food groups, and in different colors and textures and also cooked with different methods.
When my kids get used to eating the same foods and flavors over and over, they aren’t as likely to want to try new things. They get bored. So, instead, serve new dishes alongside something you know they will eat.
When you serve a new food and your child ignores it, don’t worry. Eventually, after seeing a new food enough times and seeing you eat it they will be more willing to try it.
Funny enough, if you don’t like the taste of something, chances are your child will also not enjoy it.
Don’t become a short order cook
Let’s face it, time is not on our side most days, myself included. Having 3 young children, a house to run and a full time job, it’s a small miracle I manage to prepare nutritious home cooked meals every day.
At dinner time I prepare one meal and one meal only. Yes, I’m a chef by profession but I’m not willing to be a short order cook for my children. That being said, I do try to provide a mix of child friendly foods with items that myself and my husband enjoy. It works for us, so why not give it a try?!
What if my child refuses to eat dinner or try a new food I have prepared? First, let it go. If they don’t eat, they don’t eat.
The dinner table should be a relaxed place to eat together as a family and share time with each other. Again, your job is to provide healthy food, not to get a child to eat if they refuse.
If you have acted like this before, don’t worry — it may take a while to undo any habits your family has formed, so be patient.
Don’t bribe your child
Ok, I will admit that I am guilty of occasionally using bribes to get my children to cooperate. But, when it comes time to eat their dinner I’m not a fan of, nor do I recommend the old outdated advice of “finish your plate”.
The unspoken rule in our house is that to get a dessert you have to have eaten a good amount of what was served up to them or at least have shown a good effort to taste those foods.
We don’t bribe the girls with it as we don’t offer dessert after every dinner. When we offer, especially on weekdays, it is also fairly nutritious, and usually consists of chopped fruit on yogurt.
You can make it part of your routine, but don’t use it as a bribe — it won’t encourage them to become an adventurous eater.
Get them involved
Include your children in the preparation of meals. Not everyday, of course, because it’s always messy, more time consuming and not always practical. So, choose a more relaxed day to do this and let them pick out a recipe and make a point to go shopping for the ingredients together.
Pizzas or wraps are great meals to prepare together. Let them chop mushrooms with a butter knife or smash up nuts in a mortar and pestle. Make it fun!
With that you start teaching them that food brings positive experiences 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;
- Bonus: you are giving them a head start of learning a valuable life skill.
This tip is important for obvious reasons. If your child arrives at the dinner table already satiated, they are way less likely to eat at all — much less taste new foods.
In our house, I try to stop giving snacks around two hours before mealtime. Easier said than done, I know. Sometimes I allow for some chopped up raw veggies to tide them over.
Try to offer a snack in the afternoon that contains protein, like a boiled egg, cottage cheese or some of the Moqqi Tapios. Trust me. This will keep your child satiated longer.
Persistence is key for raising an adventurous eater
Repetition. When offering any new food to your kids, you may have to serve it 10 times before they voluntarily pick it up and start eating it. When they do finally start tasting it, don’t make a big deal about it!
You’ll want to offer new foods frequently, versus once a month. Repeated exposures help kids accept new foods.
One final note: while implementing all of these tips, my main goal is to be positive with my kids and encourage them to try new things. They have a huge sense of satisfaction when they see how many new foods they are eating.
The effort is worth it as the wider the range of food experiences, the more likely a child is to continue to eat a variety of foods from the five food groups and gain the essential nutrients for good health.
We mentioned Moqqi’s snacks before, but have you met us? Our business is all about improving children’s health and easing parent’s lives. Come check us out now!