7 Tips for Raising Healthy, Happy Food Explorers
Like math and reading, liking foods is something that has to be learned. When children start to attend school, they learn through play. This same tactic should be used for introducing foods. Children thrive in fun, creative, and positive environments - alternatively when pressure is placed on them, they are more likely to disengage and become disinterested.
As a parent it’s important to understand your and your child’s role in the feeding environment. When you do there is balance in the feeding relationship which, as the research has shown us, allows feeding to be successful. Your job is to decide what foods you want to offer your child, when you want to offer them and where the meal will take place. Your child’s job is to decide how much she is going to eat and even if she is going to eat at all. This mutual respect and trust is essential in feeding and will increase the chances of your child trying and enjoying new foods.
When your child begins to eat solids, it is an incredible opportunity and should be taken advantage of! This exploratory phase lends two important advantages: (1) you, as the parent, have arguably the most control over what your child eats during this time frame and (2) your child is much more likely to accept new foods. Keep introducing foods even if your child rejected them in the first place and keep the variety going. You will not regret it!
When your child is transitioning to solids, you have the power to decide the order in which you will introduce foods to her. So why continuously offer her something sweet? This may make it more difficult when it comes to your future offerings and her future acceptances and it’s understandable. Unlike for proteins and fats, carbohydrate digestion begins with enzymatic breakdown in the mouth - think about how sweet a piece of bread tastes while you’re chewing it! If you offer bitter foods before sweet ones, the literature tells us that your child may be more likely to accept these foods when they are school-aged.
One of the biggest myths that we like to bust here at Amenta Nutrition is that kids don’t like spicy food or that they only want plain foods - wrong! Did you ever consider that your child may be refusing food because it’s too bland and boring? Squeeze some lemon on that broccoli next time you offer it and let us know how it goes.
Exposure, exposure, exposure. Like mentioned above, kids need to learn to like foods. The more often they are exposed to them, the more likely they are to eventually like them. We now know that they need to be exposed (that can mean seeing, smelling, touching, OR tasting) a minimum of 10 times before considering the food something familiar.
Feeding kids is difficult. Implementing the above strategies may not lead to immediate success, but will vastly improve the chances of kids being comfortable around, accepting, and enjoying foods when they are school-aged and into adulthood. For as you may know, making a kid finish their green beans before allowing them to leave the table, does not mean they eat green beans as an adult - sound familiar to anyone?
Want more tips and advice from Christine? Join us Monday, January 24th 2022 for an Instagram Live with her where we ask all the pressing questions on how to raise a happy and healthy little eater!