Some tips for how to encourage your child to develop a healthy palate:
1) Offer, don’t ask. Children who are hungry will eat what they are given. Start from a young age and provide a variety of colors and flavors in fruits and vegetables. If your child isn’t hungry, save it for an hour later. If you give in by providing cookies, crackers and bars (or any refined “unfoods” for that matter) then of course he or she will go for that. McDonald’s, chips and chocolates are easy going down because they AREN’T food! Take a look at the ingredients. Even instant oatmeal has a plethora of dubious ingredients. Real food has real texture and the flavor takes getting used to. But I’ve found that once you get used to it, going back to “unfoods” (Jiffy!) is like eating plastic…. probably because that’s what it is!
2) Make your child’s plate fun. Use shapes, numbers and faces to create a visually appetizing dish. Let’s face it… it’s fun to eat someone’s nose. Using shapes and sequences of numbers can help your child master fundamental educational concepts in a fun, sensory-packed way. Remember when mom asked if you wanted your sandwich cut into triangles or squares? Take it to the next level!
3) Start using seasonings early. Babies can develop a taste for all kinds of healthy and colorful seasonings. Five year old children can enjoy pepper, but not if that’s the first time they are exposed to it.
4) If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Children most likely will not like something the first time they try it. Teach them that their taste will develop as they grow older and encourage them to take a “no thank you” bite. Forcing children to eat food will likely result in resistance and strong negative feelings about food. Helping them understand that part of growing is trying things and being polite at the table can foster a positive image about health, taste and company.
5) Invite your mini chef to give a hand. Children enjoy preparing their food and learning about using seasonings. Teach them that certain spices can be used more liberally than others. This is a great opportunity to introduce simple math concepts about measurements and vocabulary words, such as “gradually,” or “halve.”
6) Have clean, healthy snacks on hand. Children (let’s face it…. many adults too!) can turn into real grouches when they are hungry. Granola bars with simple ingredients (no words that aren’t food ingredients that you would eat by themselves!), cheese sticks, vegetables and fruits are a great way to keep your little one’s sugar and energy levels steady.
7) Remember that the sum total is greater than the parts combined. Pack a lot of punch with snacks that are well rounded with a vegetable, fruit, carbohydrate and protein. The sum total is greater! As people become more aware of vitamins and minerals that require…. other vitamins and minerals to be absorbed…! this will make more sense. It’s a shame to lose any vitamins from vegetables, for example, because no fat was consumed.
Happy and healthy eating!