by Kelley Jilek
A healthy diet and lifestyle can never start early enough. MyPlate suggests that half of our plates should consist of fruits and vegetables. There are many factors that shape food habits and behaviors in children. Here are 6 tips for getting your little ones to try healthier foods:
It takes 8–15 tastes before a child says he likes a food. Encourage the child to only take one small bite the first time. A child may not even try a new food until it has been offered two or three times. Even just putting a tongue on a new food may be all you can expect when introducing a new food. Don’t make a big deal over a food. Make it available, and show in a matter-of-fact way that you enjoy eating. Let the child decide how much to eat.
If you introduce a new food when a child is hungry, you will have a better chance of having the child accept the food. The child will then begin to associate eating that particular food with eliminating hunger. You can choose the time and place the food will be offered, but the choice of how much to eat should be left to the child.
Adult attention encourages good food habits. If you notice a child is willing to try new foods, you can say, “Taylor, I really like the way you are open to trying new foods. That shows your adventurous nature!” Avoid rewarding a child for eating all of the food; rather focus on their willingness to experiment with new foods. Keep in mind that a child may refuse to eat if she’s emotionally upset, tired, or angry.
As a provider, you can help children make healthy food choices by role modeling healthy eating. Serve and eat a variety of vegetables.
Encourage Mini Chefs
If children participate in the preparation of meals, they are more likely to eat the foods.
If all else fails, hide vegetables in foods that children like. Pumpkin cookies provide nutrients not found in a sugar cookie. Mashed carrots can be added to a meatloaf. Be creative!
Remember that a serving size for a preschooler is not the same as an adult; it’s about two-thirds the size of an adult portion, or one tablespoon for each year of life. Do you have any creative tips to get children to try a new food that have worked for you? Share in the comments!