They WILL Eat That: Boosting Food Acceptance
One challenge all parents face is making sure that their children are well-fed. You may wonder, what am I supposed to be feeding them and how do I get them to eat it? Well, I’m here to reduce your stress. Your worry is the first part of the equation; providing healthy food. Your child’s job is to choose which of those foods they will eat and how much they are going to consume. This set-up can reduce your stress by dividing the responsibility at mealtimes. Giving up control of how much your child eats may seem difficult as first, but it is much easier than forcing them to eat. Try these tips to boost food acceptance and help your child love healthy foods.
1. Start Early The earlier you introduce a variety of flavors, the more accepting your child may be. Once your pediatrician says it is safe to offer solids, give a variety of vegetables, fruits, and other healthy foods. Only introduce one new food a week to infants to ensure no allergies.*
2. Don’t be a Short Order Cook If you start cooking separate meals for your child, they will expect it. Instead offer one meal for the entire family and make sure to include one or two foods they are familiar with.
3. Be a Role Model This works especially well with young children. They want to be like you. Rather than talk about why they need to eat vegetables or how much they have to finish, show them how much you enjoy eating them. They will become curious and give it a try without the drama of forcing it.
4. Eat together Make meal time enjoyable. Enjoy your food and talk about how everyone’s day went.
5. Prepare a variety of healthy foods Plan a meal with one or two foods that your child likes and is familiar with. Offer one or two vegetables, fruit, a whole grain, protein, and water or milk to drink.
6. Cook together Children who help prepare food may be more open to eating it. This is an important life-skill that they can begin to learn early on and have fun in the process.
7. Keep Trying Continue to offer new and challenging foods. It may take up to 20 tastes to like something new. Children may also love foods cooked one way and not another. Experiment.
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By Sarah Carvaines, MPH, RD, LD