Monday, October 27, 2014

Picky eaters?

Kids develop their eating habits by example, and by what is given to them on a daily basis. I've definitely fallen into the "convenience" rut of making my child pasta, and some form of wheat + dairy for breakfast each and every day. After all, it was easy, and what she liked. However, this constant intake of highly-refined, sugary foods, limited the willingness to try a variety of good, nutritious foods, namely vegetables. It took time to get myself out of that habit, but with a bit of time and patience, it wasn't too difficult. By introducing new foods gradually, I eventually expanded the variety of tastes and flavors in meals for my child (who now eats absolutely everything!) Perseverance was key, but without making food a "big deal" since ultimately it's about encouraging a life-long habit of good eating.

Studies show that it takes approximately a dozen tastes before a picky/fussy child will accept something new. So, by introducing anything new again and again, it becomes the "norm". Meal time shouldn't be a battle, it should be a time to share, enjoy, and nourish together. It's mainly when a child knows that they have a choice, (real food vs processed foods) that everything spirals out of control. In countries where food is "just food, real food", there are no issues about not eating well. A vegetable is a vegetable, a standard part of a meal. 

In the Standard American Diet (SAD), ketchup, french fries and the tomato sauce on a pizza counts as a serving of vegetables. The standard green salad is totally unappealing when in competition with those sugary, salty, deep-fried foods. But with a little creativity, there are plenty of other ways to integrate nature's goodness into foods. Not only do adding vegetables provide essential nutrients for growing bodies, they also add color and flavor to any dish. Start with adding a little, then gradually increase the amount and variety of vegetables into meals. For the ultimate picky eater, there are also easy ways to "sneak" them in by integrating vegetables that are similar in color and texture to the familiar foods. (see ""Sneaky Chef" below.)

Getting kids involved in cooking, or even helping to shop for a rainbow of produce, are some ways to getting them interested in (not reluctant) about plant food. Or grow some herbs in a few flower pots from seed, so that they can understand and appreciate a real "from seed to table" experience.

Trying new foods together, and having an open mind, is also essential. I had never made curry for my kids until they tried a tasting sample at the supermarket. The expression "you never know until you try" really holds true. I assumed that the spice would be to overwhelming for them. That taught me not to assume that kids like bland foods! Now, when they like something that they've eaten when either at a restaurant or at a friend's home, they ask me to make it too. Now, some of our regular family favorites from these requests are Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Chili, Pad Thai, and Cauliflower Soup.

These are some of my favorite dishes to easily eat/add veggies to:
Fried Rice
Green Juice

Potato Pancakes
Veggie Dumplings

These books are great references in helping find tips and tricks do parents in setting a good foundation of healthy eating habits.
How do you feel about your child(ren)'s eating habits? Are new foods welcome with gusto? Or is it a struggle to go outside the handful of favorites? What happens when these "favorites" are dropped, what next? Are enough vegetables integrated into each meal, every day? Are they "Eating the Rainbow"? Need some extra help and support with making food choices and meal planning? Contact me any time! ;) It may sound daunting, but every child has the potential to love their veggies. 

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