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Trying out new foods

March 9, 2017
Melissa Marote , MOV Parent

Do you ever get frustrated over the fact that all your child will eat is pizza, fries, mac and cheese, or chicken nuggets? I think we've all had a picky eater at one time or another. And two children raised in the same home can end up having very different food preferences. I often wonder how to get my kids to eat more healthy foods in their diet.

My 7-year-old daughter loves sweets. She dreams about them, draws pictures of cupcakes, and is always on the lookout for a cookie or treat whenever we are out. But my 5-year-old, while loving sweets like any other kid, sometimes refuses them because she 's not hungry or just doesn't want them.

Our pediatrician has been warning us for several years that my older daughter's body mass index (BMI) is a little too high for a child her age, despite the fact that she's quite active. After attending a class together on healthy eating, my daughter would be excited about making "healthy choices" for about a day, then slip back into hankering for the foods she knows and loves: chicken nuggets, fries, pizza, etc.

Luckily for me, our daughters both enjoy salad and some vegetables. We praise them when they eat healthy food. Praise goes a long way in changing a child's behavior. Using that approach, we started a "Food Challenge" in which the girls get something new each day in their lunch box. They are encouraged to take a taste. When they bring it home with a bite or more eaten, they get praised with a big high five and hug. I tell them how proud I am of them for having the courage to try something new.

Sometimes I find it would be so much easier to just run through a drive thru after work when I have kids in the car who are "dying of hunger." And that isn't completely out of the question, according to our pediatrician. But limit a drive thru meal to only once a week.

During Girl Scout cookie season, my 7 year old will sneakily grab a cookie or two without asking. She knows that I prefer my Thin Mints in the freezer, so I have to really monitor them. Otherwise, it is best to keep junk food completely out of the house. If it isn't in the home, it can't be a temptation.

When I pack my girl's lunches for school each day, I always make sure I pack a bit more than they can actually finish at lunch so that when I pick them up from school, on the way home, there are healthy snacks ready for them. It's a good idea to have cut up veggies or fruit to give to your child in between meals at a snack time.

And be careful that they don't fill up on sugary juices and have no room for dinner. It's best to limit juice intake to one serving per day.

A fun way to get my kids to eat fruits and veggies is by using a tiny cookie cutter to transform them into fun shapes for example, turning cucumber slices into mini hearts.

My oldest likes to help cut out the shapes too. Even a turkey sandwich can be cut into a fun shape if you have a cookie cutter large enough for the job. This doesn't have to be a work of art or take too much time. But often a child will eat something just because it looks cute or funny.

Since kids love novelty and creativity, just giving a food a different name can stir their curiosity. For example, instead of spinach leaves, say it is Kermit the Frog's lily pad snacks. Broccoli can be a mini tree and the child can be the dinosaur. Try to show enthusiasm for a new food presented to a child.

Also experiment with how the food is prepared. My daughters are huge fans of roasted broccoli, and they prefer that over raw, but some might like it the other way around. Some kids will eat frozen peas, while others want them cooked.

Experts often say it takes 10 to 15 tries for a child to finally decide if they like a new food.

That might make you feel you are being too persistent in getting a child to eat something, but experiment with the presentation, the preparation, and your attitude when giving it to the child.

Perhaps after that fifteenth bite, cauliflower will be their favorite veggie!

Melissa Marote is a licensed professional clinical counselor and received her doctorate in counselor education from Ohio University.

 
 

 

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