???Do you have someone in your house that turns their nose up at everything? Little ones can be quite the picky eaters. Many studies have shown that it is important to teach our children how to eat right when they are little. Children who are poor eaters do NOT change these bad habits when they grow up, unless they have huge incentives to do so. Our jobs as parents is to instill these good habits at an early age. Here are a few tricks that are working in my house. Please feel free to send me any others that work for you.
1. Fruits and Veggie capsules or chews*. An easy, tasty way to get 20-30 fruits ,veggies & berries in. Don’t tell them it’s good for them, sometimes if they think it’s a treat, they are more likely to want them and eat them.
2. Smoothies – We start with a whole foods plant-based powder as our base*, it has lots of the veggie powders. We found that adding baby spinach leaves to a smoothie does not alter the taste. (Note, the color DOES change, so non-clear plastic bottles are good for the first few tries). We use a VitaMix blender to totally pulverize the spinach. Our typical morning shake includes Complete, almond milk (any plant milk will work fine), a banana, baby spinach, and some frozen berries. We found that the vitamix requires us to add some water, but not too much. Spinach is wonderful for kids, but most don’t ask to munch on the leaves voluntarily.
3.The three bite rule. We started with this when my son was 2. He had to try 2 bites of the foods he was refusing. If he still didn’t like it, we didn’t force the issue. Usually, once he tried the food, he was agreeable to eating if someone would serve it to him. (A trade off that was workable for us.). As he’s grown, the number of required bites has grown too. I can’t recall the last time he refused to finish anything unless he was full.
4. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I’ve read that it can take 50 tries before a child will accept a new food. We offer very small portions of new foods on a frequent basis, till they are accepted. I think it took 6 months for my son to like baby grape tomatoes. He loves chickpeas, cucumbers and olives in his salad, so I’d add one small tomato, cut into 2 pieces. I told him that was all he had to eat of the tomatoes, everyone else had lots more in their salads. Now, he asks for tomatoes, and we are negotiating lettuce.
5. Withholding treats. Our dinnertime rule is that you don’t need to clean your plate, but if you aren’t hungry enough to finish, then you are too full to have dessert. Treats, are, well, treats, not a dinner requirement. We serve child-size portions of dinner so it reasonable to expect dinner to be finished before getting a dessert.
6. One treat/week rule. My son knows that he can choose when he gets his sweet treat, but that it will be the only one of the week. If he wants the ices that they serve at camp that is fine, but dessert after dinner will be fruit, not cookies. Since there isn’t the expectation of getting lots of goodies, the real food is more likely to be eaten. If your children are used to treats with every meal, I’d recommend starting with one treat/day and then work back to 1x/week slowly.
Please feel free to share what works in your house too!
* If you’d like more info on our favorite smoothie mix or the fruits and veggies in a capsule or chews please get in touch.