Parents, does your child refuse to eat anything but pizza and peanut butter and jelly? If so, you’re not alone. Children can be notoriously picky eaters, but there are ways parents can promote healthy eating - without having to battle it out over broccoli every night at dinner. We read about this in Newsweek Magazine.
Some of what passes for finicky eating is just normal development. Humans are biologically programmed to be wary of new foods until they know they’re safe to eat. This “phobia” peaks between ages 2 and 5. Why? It’s probably because that’s the age range when kids start to walk on their own and if junior can walk on his own, there’s a chance he could find, pick up, and eat something that may be dangerous. So in a way, this “new food phobia” is how children protect themselves from eating something poisonous. So how can parents convince their children that broccoli, carrots, and other nutritious foods aren’t “poison?” Try these tips:
- Be persistent. According to psychologist Leann Birch, children often need to try a new food 10 to 15 times before they’ll accept it. However, most parents give up after 3 to 5 times. So keep serving your kid those vegetables and let your child spit the food out if they want. Family therapist Ellyn Satter says children have to get accustomed to the taste and texture of a food before they feel comfortable swallowing it. If your kid actually puts spinach in their mouth, that’s a start, right?
- Involve kids in cooking. For example, maybe they can help you toss vegetables into a salad. Or sprinkle cheese on the broccoli. Being your assistant will help kids get used to the smell, feel, and texture of foods. Also, your child will be more inclined to eat something they helped prepare.
- DON’T bribe your kids. Promising ice cream as a reward for eating broccoli only fuels your child’s suspicion that there’s something WRONG with broccoli. Instead, serve everyone the same foods family-style, and let your child dish out their own portions. This gives your child a sense of control, and eventually, they’ll CHOOSE to have some vegetables.