Raising A Food Adventurous Kid
Building a safe environment for food exploration takes patience, creativity and a wee bit of unlearning from adults.
Foods with different colors and textures can throw even the bravest of kiddos for a loop at mealtime. How building a safe environment for food exploration takes patience, creativity and a wee bit of unlearning from adults.
It's common for children to change their food preferences. One day they may like broccoli, while the next it repulses them. Don't fret. Continue introducing your child to a variety of foods, knowing full well that curating an adventurous eater takes time. After all, it can take up to twenty attempts of a new food for a child to like it.
The best way to build healthy relationships with food is not to bring attention to picky eating or food jags. Rather than showing disappointment or frustration with a child that chooses not to eat the food you offer, have solace in knowing they are not responsible for their taste buds growing and maturing.
The best method for teaching children to be more adventurous with food is to quietly lead by example. Offer and eat a variety of foods yourself and your son or daughter will learn to do the same.
Follow the most important position statement when teaching about food: We all have to try each of the foods offered, even if we didn’t like it previously.
If a child finds they do not like a food, don’t force them to eat it. Reassure them that it is okay not to like it and reward them (without food) for being adventurous and trying. Do teach your child that it's inappropriate to dramatize their opinion of a food. Acting out could make others who like the food (siblings, classmates) feel embarrassed.
Keep in mind, if children are involved in the selection and preparation of food, they are more inclined to try it.
A helpful practice is to have children test new foods with their five senses—look at it, feel it, listen to it (i.e.: Does it make a noise when snapped in half?), smell it and taste it. This helps take wonder and fear out of new foods.
Outside of mealtime, offer new fruits and vegetables in two different forms—raw and cooked. Have them compare the two versions with their five senses. This science experiment will allow them to decide which food and which form they like best. You might find texture and presentation the differences between a child loving and rejecting a food.
Being a parent of an ever-changing eater can feel frustrating at times. Have faith. As long as you set the best example by offering nourishing choices and having them actively involved in the process, you are creating a foundation of positive food relationships and healthful eating for your child to build upon.