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A tale as old as time, a tune as old as song: parents want their kids to be healthy and that’s why they try to introduce a lot of healthy food into their diet, and kids don’t want to eat their veggies, because they would rather stick to candies. So, should parents just let it go and leave the food choice to their little ones?
Of course not, because you know better what is good for them, but that doesn’t mean you should force them to eat something until they burst into tears. Remember that you are not the only parent facing this problem, and that most children go through this “picky eater” phase. Here are some tips that will help you deal with this “pushing the plate away” period.
Introduce many new foods, but do it slowly
It is essential for children to try as many new foods as possible at an early age, but you have to be aware that kids have an inborn fear of new tastes, so you shouldn’t do it suddenly. They need time to get used to the flavour, smell and texture of food before they actually like the taste. There is no much use in hiding the veggies in a dish, so it is better to explain to the kids what it is they are about to eat, and why it is good for them (e.g. spinach makes Popeye strong). Try to give them some fascinating facts about food, such as cucumber is mostly made of water, but so are our bodies.
Bite your tongue
It can be very frustrating seeing your kids push the plate of food you carefully prepared away, but if you show anger and disappointment, you will accomplish nothing. Instead, you should praise their courage for trying something new, and be as neutral as possible when it comes to their bad behaviour. Focus your attention on good behaviour to make the mealtime pleasant and less stressful.
Be aware just how difficult it is for your kids to try something for the first time. Try to put yourself in their shoes: it would be challenging for you at this age to try unusual food, like fried spider or octopus. That’s why you should understand that your little heroes deserve an award for their bravery.
This doesn’t mean giving them a candy bar after each healthy meal. But you can make a sticker chart and give treats after five or more stickers.
Make sure the kids get everything they need
A healthy diet means a combination of all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients essential for children’s development. However, if your little ones are fussy eaters, they probably lack some important nutrients. Fortunately, there are many healthy cheap vitamins that can help compensate for any vitamin deficit.
Include them in the preparation
Most children enjoy spending time in the kitchen and participating in food preparation, whether it comes to squeezing oranges or cracking eggs. If they are involved in preparing and decorating their plate, they might be more prepared to try new flavours.
The irresistible appeal of junk food
It can be really surprising and annoying when you see your kids mouth-watering while watching a burger in a fast food restaurant and sobbing when you give them a healthy colourful plate full of various veggies. Junk food has an appeal we don’t really understand, but we can imitate it with healthy food.
Cauliflower pizza crust is much healthier than white flour dough, but it looks just as nice. Burgers made of lean meat and whole-wheat flour will also be tempting for your kids.
Be creative with the presentation
Before the food gets to their mouths, tongue and taste buds, it will be in front of the kids’ eyes, and if they don’t like what they see, it will be much more difficult to encourage them to try it. So, make the food presentation fun and creative. Parents’ favourite boogieman – broccoli – can become an enchanted forest; an orange and banana can be turned into a shining sun; an apple can transform into an owl, and so on.
Parents play a huge role in their children’s eating habits, and while sometimes it may seem hopeless to motivate them to eat healthy, it is important to follow these tips and never give up.