Finicky with Fruit?
By Christie Caggiani, RDN, LD/N, CEDRD
When I was expecting our first child, I had visions of the utopian eating relationship he would have. After all, I’m a nutritionist and I know the values of a balanced diet, the do’s and don’ts of introducing kids to new and exciting food, and the importance of family meals. All I needed to do was be patient and continue exposing my little one to different items and he will eventually grow to like them. I would make sure he fell in love with all things colorful and have a wide array of nutrients in his life. End dream sequence.
While I was blessed with a fairly easy eater, the normal development of his personality led him to have…opinions. Preferences. Dislikes. And his primary dislike around food was – horror of horrors – fruit! Really? How could my child who loved berries and melon decide at about three years old that he was done with the sweet stuff? And so we worked with it, and can now fast forward to the healthful existence of my 15 year old.Photo Credit: athene.noctua via Compfight cc
How do you ensure that your child still includes a wide array of foods and is able to be a curious eater, if he tends to shun categories of food, such as fruit? First, be careful to avoid labeling your child a “picky-eater”. They are simply eaters making choices, and it’s our job as parents to keep presenting foods in ways that they can explore and gradually develop their own conclusions. I have also found that approaching food from an adventurous angle, rather than a mission, not only engages kids, but also empowers them.
By noting your child’s preferences, you can begin to expand some of their choices. While these ideas zero in on fruits, you may use the concepts to explore other food groups as well:
- If your child has consistency or texture preferences, work with them. It might be that a crunchy apple goes over much better than a soft banana. A smoothie or 100% juice works beautifully if your little one doesn’t have “time” or a desire to chew their fruit. Dried or dehydrated fruits are great for kids who may not enjoy the juiciness of the fresh version.
- While we know that sweet is our first developed taste, some people may still have other taste preferences, finding certain flavors too strong. Consider a juice that has veggie value, since they tend to be less intensely sweet. A slightly green banana is a whole different experience from a fully ripened one. You may also introduce ‘combo flavors’, such as some chocolate with those raisins, flavor-infused cranberries or Trader Joe’s chile dried mango for a kick.
- Sometimes the temperature of our food makes all the difference. While I love a good melon in any form, it’s particularly amazing when it’s cold. Maybe your child likes grapes better at room temperature or completely frozen. Keep some apples on the counter and some in the fridge, giving your child the opportunity to choose.
- Toning down the intensity of the food exposure takes the pressure off. Don’t make it all about the fruit. Try a handful of chopped apricot added to your couscous or my favorite: bananas &/or berries in the pancake batter. Mixed in your blender, the kids will notice the sweet, but not be distracted by the pieces of fruit.
So while my son is still not a lover-of-fruit, I am convinced that the regular, non-pushy exposure to it will give him the willingness to eventually enjoy a little more of it some day. As we enter fall, here are a couple of my favorite ways to add some fruit into our lives:Photo Credit: elana’s pantry via Compfight cc
- 4 apples, peeled, cored and chopped (I like to leave some of the peel on for more texture and nutrient value)
- ¾ c water or 100% apple juice
- ¼ cup white sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
In a saucepan, combine apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon. Cover, and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, or until apples are soft. Allow to cool, then mash with a fork or potato masher. If you prefer a smoother consistency, use blender or food processor.
- 2 cups peeled, cored and finely diced sweet-tart apples, such as Cortland
- ½ c sugar
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup canola oil
- ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup whole-wheat flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- ¾ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ½ cup toasted, chopped unsalted pistachios nuts
Preheat oven to 325° F. Coat two 12-cup mini-muffin pans with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, toss apples and sugar. In a small bowl, whisk egg, oil and vanilla. In another medium bowl, whisk flours, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg and salt. Add egg mixture to apple mixture; stir to coat. Mix in flour mixture, then fold in pistachios. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling ¾ full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of muffins comes out clean, 10-13 minutes. Let cool on wire rack. Run a knife around edges to release. Makes 24.
Recipes by Liza Schoenfein, EveryDay with Rachael Ray, October 2014