As parents, we strive to feed our children the best food possible. We understand studies have shown the impact of food on a child’s academic and athletic performance, as well as their overall energy level and even their immune systems. But not all of us are blessed with kids that will just eat quinoa, kale and a rainbow of fruits and vegetables (my niece does, by the way, SO jealous of my sister!) So like many of you, I struggle with hectic schedules and resistance from my kids, especially my son, when it comes to trying new foods. I am lucky to work with a great dietician at my hospital, Tiffani Ghere, RD. I have learned so much from her over the years, and we have given a few talks together on the subject. Here are a few tips to improve your chances with YOUR picky eater!
- Introduce new foods regularly and keep putting it out there!: it’s best to introduce a new food with foods you know your kid likes. It will take an average of 10-12 times before a kid will accept a new food, so make sure it’s something you want to eat that many times!
- Serve dinner “Family Style”: By having several options, kids will feel empowered and may be more willing to add a little of something new, as long as they can control portion size.
- Speaking of Portion Size: Especially for young children ages 2-6 yrs of age! Average portion size is their age in years (5 “bites” for a 5 year old). As adults we tend to overestimate portions when serving kids.
- Make the most of snack time: Make sure you include fruits and vegetables in snacks and the task of 5 servings per day becomes less daunting.
- Pick YOUR family’s major battle: I get asked “what should I change first?” Well, pick one thing your family is not great at and make the change. Whether it’s sugary cereals or sweetened drinks, keep in mind small changes will have significant long-term effects and cut yourself some slack!
- “I don’t like carrots!”: Most times, what kids don’t like about a food is it’s temperature or texture, and has nothing to do with the taste! Try cooked carrots instead of raw, or mashed cauliflower instead of steamed. Roasting is my favorite! Brings out sweetness in vegetables; think roasted beets, sweet potatoes, or kale! My kids had beet chips last week and loved them! (1point for mom!)
- If you don’t like it, blend it!: This one is in honor of my 43 year old kid. My husband is not huge on vegetables, but who doesn’t like a smoothie! So we blend fruits and veggies with a little 100% juice and greek yogurt and freeze the leftovers in popsicle molds!
- Breakfast for dinner? Why not!: My kids will eat a good breakfast (at least I have that!)…eggs, toast, whole grain pancakes or cereal, fruit (and even some veggies), oatmeal or yogurt parfaits. So we have breakfast for dinner! It’s quick and easy and I love doing this on busy nights with evening practices.
- Muffins, the perfect “vehicle”: Muffins are a great way to add vegetables, fruits and nuts. I use my “Anything muffin recipe and change it up. Kid’s favorites are banana, blueberry and pumpkin. They all have veggies in them but shhh! They haven’t figured it out yet!)
- Think veggies at all times: I try to think about how I can give recipes a nutritional “boost” by adding extra veggies, beans or greens, especially when making soups, sauces or dips. With vegetables, smaller bites work best for the little ones (think appetizers) and food on toothpicks is always a hit!
- Get kids involved!: I’ve mentioned this before…my son loves to cook with me but isn’t so interested in actually EATING the food. But I haven’t given up hope. Take your kids to the farmer’s market or grocery store, have them help with the prepping and the cooking, and sit together as a family (when possible, I know it’s much easier said than done).
- Lead by example: Unfortunately, my kids could care less that I eat tons of vegetables and greens and whole grains and hardly any sweets but maybe some day they will!
- Balance is KEY: This should be my life mantra…I don’t believe in depriving children so occasional treats are fine by me! I have them once in a while, so why shouldn’t they?
- Get creative!: So so many great ideas on the internet these days, I could spend hours just looking at pretty foods. When you’re trying to “sell” healthy foods, cute goes a LONG way!
Good luck! Check out recipes here http://doctorjacq.com/recipes/ and don’t forget to look at my Pins on Pinterest!