Teaching Children an Appreciation for Food

Getting kids involved in the kitchen can be a great way to introduce foods

By Guest Blogger: Debra Johnson

Many parents want their children to be happy and healthy. Eating nutrient dense foods is one way to accomplish a healthy body. However, some children are picky and may fight off the idea of new meals. The information below may help a parent introduce new foods into the home.

1. Add Fun – It is necessary for a parent to make eating fun. If a parent does not allow a child to associate excitement with lunch or dinner, introducing new foods may be exceedingly difficult. For example, a parent may choose to add the child’s favorite dipping sauce to the menu. The child may be willing to try a new food if he or she may add something that is familiar and comfortable. It is also possible to cut the new foods into fascinating shapes and give them creative names.

2. Do Not Push – Some parents may push their child into trying a new food; this is a terrible idea. The child may refuse to try the new food in the long run if a parent pressures a child. It is crucial to exercise patience. A child may have to look at the new food several times before he or she tries it. The parent should not punish the child for not eating more than one or two bites. It is a terrific idea to celebrate any taste tests, as this will encourage the toddler to try the food again at a later date.

3. Involve the Child – A child should feel that their opinion is important and appreciated. If a parent wishes to teach an appreciation for different foods, it is a fantastic idea to involve the child in the shopping process. The parent should point to new foods and allow the child to choose what to put in the grocery cart. However, if a parent does not like the chosen food, it does not have to be purchased. The child will feel a sense of belonging and power, and the child will be more likely to try the food at home. The child should also help with the cooking process.

4. Use A Routine – It is crucial to maintain routines. A parent should not change the course of a day if he or she wishes to teach children to try new foods. A child may feel scared or confused if he or she does not receive a snack at a certain time of day. If the child is not ready, he or she may be less willing to try something new. New routines may also spoil a child’s appetite; when dinner arrives, the child may not be hungry, and the new food may be rejected at a faster rate.

Toddlers and young children tend to be picky eaters. It may be difficult to get a child to try something different; however, it is not impossible. The information above may help a parent nurture a love of new foods. With some patience and a willingness to adapt, any parent may accomplish their goal.

 

About the Author:

This guest post is contributed by Debra Johnson, blogger and editor of LiveInNanny.com. She welcomes your comments at her email, jdebra84@gmail.com.

 

Keeping it Real: Dishing on My Boys’ Pickiness and Progress

Keeping things real is what Mom Dishes It Out is all about – and that includes the setbacks too. I’m the first to admit it; for every two steps forward that my kids make, they also eventually take at least one step back. In these instances, it’s most important to remember that the evidence continues to build supporting food exposure, rather than force feeding, works when given ample time and patience.

At the end of the day, my children are the real deal, and they give me plenty of experiences to share with you, my readers. Here’s what’s happening on the pickiness home front in my kitchen.

Hot and cold. I am not talking food temperature. Hot and cold has to do with Billy’s fickle nature when it comes to the most natural form of dried mango. One day he gobbles it down, and the next day Billy tells me he doesn’t like this type of mango anymore. So I give him sweetened dried mango. After eating this for about a week, I reintroduce the unsweetened dried mango and he happily eats it. This cycle is the never-ending.

Foods get breaks too. Raisins are another food in my household that the boys tend to love one month and despise the next. I used to always give the boys a box of unsweetened raisins as a snack or side with their lunch. Eventually, I noticed it coming back in Bobby’s lunch box. When I asked him about the raisins, he said he didn’t want them anymore (I believe he actually said he didn’t like them). After six blissful years of raising Bobby, I know that this means I am tired of this food.

About 6 months after this incidence, I’ve now reintroduced raisins—in addition to apple slices and string cheese—to Bobby’s lunch meal. And guess what: His lunch box is coming home empty! It’s not just raisins, apples or string cheese; this has happened with many foods. Moms and Dads, we need to remember children may express interest in old and new foods alike, so keep reintroducing and introducing foods.

Sneaking it in or dressing it up. Just the other day, I told Billy he eats pasta, and he was okay with this statement. Oddly enough, Billy does not like pasta, well with one exception. The trick is if I add his pasta to yogurt with wheat germ, he happily eats it and amazingly doesn’t say boo. In fact, this bizarre combination has become an everyday food for him.

I know that Billy is picky. I’m the first to admit that even registered dietitians can’t promise to raise perfect eaters. Using my professional and personal experience though, I also know that sneaking certain ingredients into foods I know he likes, for instance disguising pasta in yogurt or carrots in carrot cake, is acceptable while working along the continuum of exposure and variety. At the end of the day, if it gets Mr. Picky Palate to eat them, he is healthier and I am happier. While this may not be my first line of action, allowing Billy the opportunity to explore tastes and textures in an unintimidating way allows for progress.

Guest Blog: Arguments For Your College Bound Child Eating Their Veggies At Last

By Guest Blogger: Barbara Jolie

First of all, I want to acknowledge upfront that I don’t have to sell the “benefits of smart eating” argument to the parents whose kids can’t stand the sight of greens. Parents, I know that you’re trying your hardest to get your kids to eat well without scaring them off from nutritious food altogether, and I applaud your effort.

With this article, I want to address the picky eating college-bound young adults directly, telling them hard truths that parents might avoid. Yes, I have more than a few bones to pick with youngsters who would sooner find solace in a fast food chicken nugget than they would a bowl of quinoa or even a stalk of celery. Eating the right foods is all the more important for selective eaters when they’re going off to college because they have to make their own meals now—without mom and dad monitoring their eating habits, there’s no telling what they’ll gobble up to satisfy their hunger. My intention is to help these wayward eaters get on a smart path to better eating.

So here’s my argument, hypothetical college student; please consider it before you give in to ramen and microwave dinners.

You’ll Need the Nutrition

I’ll admit that you might not be sold on this point alone, but I’ll make it anyway. Earning a college degree is hard work, often requiring a superhuman amount of mental strain to study for tests, complete projects on time, and to absorb hundreds of pages of class material. How do will you keep up your mental stamina in the face of such academic challenges if you don’t keep your body and mind properly fueled with healthy foods?

Fast food might satisfy your sodium cravings, but think about the bigger picture here: how well do you think a few items off a dollar menu will prepare you the night before a big test? I’d wager that a solid nutritious meal with ample greens and smart proteins like chicken or fish would be much better for your mind. Certain foods are called “brain food” for a reason, after all.

Expanding Your Palate Will Open Your Mind In Other Areas

In my opinion, trying new foods can do a lot to broaden a person’s intellectual horizons. I’d like to think that there’s a pretty direct correlation between adventurous eating and adventurous behavior. For picky eaters with serious food phobias, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to overcome those anxieties and try something outside of the comfort zone.

The idea of eating a salmon filet with green beans can seem intimidating if you’re only to eating nothing but hamburgers and French fries for most of your meals. But I guarantee you that the moment you try something new, the moment you challenge yourself to try new foods—especially healthier options—you’ll notice your entire worldview start to chance. Fearless eating translates into many other positive behaviors: you might have more confidence in your studies, or you might gain the courage to take the helm in social situations.

Eating Well Can Save You Serious Money

And then there’s the financial argument, which I think makes the strongest case for college students to consider healthy eating habits. If you budget properly for it, you can save a good chunk of change from eating expenses if you make your meals at home from store-bought produce, meats, and grains. If you cook meals in big batches and with well-balanced ingredients—say veggie lasagna or a one-pot heart meat stew—you could have enough portions to last you through several lunches and dinners. Cooking in such a way will even cost you less over time than if you were to rely on ramen and dollar menu items from a nearby fast food joint. What’s more, cooking for yourself is the only way to ensure that you get the proper nutrients you need to maintain a healthy diet in school.

 

About the Writer

Barbara Jolie is a freelance education, tech, and health blogger currently writing for onlineclasses.org. She loves to write about higher education in particular through the lens of either student health or modern mobile technology. Please feel free to leave Barbara some comments!

 

Simply Satisfying Salmon

As featured in Identity Magazine’s “Easy Back to School Recipes”

INGREDIENTS (Makes 4 Servings)

4 5 oz. Wild salmon filets
½ cup Mustard
½ cup Breadcrumbs
4 Ears of fresh corn
Haricot verts (either frozen or fresh)

DIRECTIONS

1. Set oven at 350 degrees.
2. Place salmon on a foil lined baking sheet & spread about ½ tbspn mustard on each filet. Then cover w/ a layer of bread crumbs.
3. Cover w/ a foil tent and bake for ten minutes.
4. Microwave the ears of corn for 5 minutes per 2 ears w/ the husks on.
5. Steam the haricot verts in a steamer for about 8 minutes.
6. After ten minutes, remove foil tent & broil for 5 minutes or until salmon is ready (flaky and pink not red).
7. Serve each salmon filet w/one ear of corn & haricot verts.

Quick Fix:
Can use frozen green beans. Make sure each salmon filet is of equal thickness.

There’s More to Your Child's Food Personality Than Rules and Exposure

American kids can eat almost anything; that’s what I’ve noticed over my past two weeks of travel. If you live in California, your children may be accustomed to eating Mexican meals, snacks from Trader Joes, and occasionally visiting the Donut House for some yummy in the tummy fried dough. If you’re a Colorado native, your kids may enjoy a juicy bison burger, trail mix concoctions and hot cocoa on particularly cool nights. And if you’re from the East Coast, like my family, your tots may be exposed to pizza for easy dinners, organic applesauce for snacks and ice cream on summer nights.

But if you think that a child’s ultimate “food personality”—aka whether they’re a picky or an easy eater—is fully based on the neighborhood they grew up in, the foods their parents purchased or their underdeveloped palates, then think again. Children’s preferences are not black and white, and just as some may be strong-willed, athletic, outgoing or shy, they have equally unique food personalities too.

During my family’s vacation, we spent time on a dude ranch in Colorado, where I observed the same kitchen quandaries I write about here on Mom Dishes It Out all the time. I observed a mom bribing her daughter (the youngest of three) to eat her carrots in order to get her ice cream. I heard another parent tell his sons, “Enjoy your last big breakfast of bacon and eggs.” Personally I just gave up and let my boys eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and ice cream twice a day, as they refused all other foods anyway.

At the ranch, I spoke to one guest, an ER doctor, who told me his daughter is a great eater but his oldest son is finicky. When his son went off to college, he lost weight due to his selective intake, and since then has become more open to trying new foods.

Another guest, a nurse practitioner, told me how three of her four children ate well-balanced meals, while one son’s eating patterns were the complete opposite. Interestingly enough, her son with the picky palate is a twin, and exhibited totally different food preferences when compared to his fraternal sibling. (This story reminded me a lot of my own childhood, and how my sister and I had very different eating habits growing up despite our similarities.)

What’s the point of all this? It’s simple. Though rules and exposure in the kitchen may play a significant role in the development of our eating habits, they are not the only factors that will determine a child’s unique food personality. All you can do is sit back, enjoy the ride, and do the best you can as a parent to support them along the way.

  • How would you describe your child’s food personality?
  • What do you think are the greatest influences on your child’s food personality?

Tolerating Your Children's Boring Palates

Photo Credit: Leonid Mamchenkov via Compfight cc

Do you ever get frustrated with the monotony of your children’s meals? Are you bored preparing the same chicken dish every night? Do you feel that you and your husband are limited in restaurant variety as well as quality due to your children’s picky palates?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, then welcome to my world. Because whether you spend all day working in an office or at home caring for your tots, there is nothing more heart-breaking than laboriously preparing an elaborate and flavorful meal that is received without enthusiasm.

 

 

 

My boys’ food preferences seem to rotate. Although they are gradually expanding upon what they’ll tolerate, this process can be painfully slow at times. Exposure therapy, while valuable, often works at a snail’s pace, and there are days when getting your children to try—and actually enjoy—a new food can feel drawn out and downright frustrating.

Just tonight, I had to “go with the flow,” and be sure not to make a big deal about my little guy’s refusal to try a measly nectarine. While he looked absolutely adorable in his attempt to give me a big ol’ orange-hued smile, he never actually consumed the fruit.

The beautiful—albeit incredibly vexing—part about raising children is that their reactions to different foods can be so misleading. Though Billy didn’t technically eat the fruit, he was at least open to making silly faces with the peel in his mouth. That’s progress, right? In a way, I was thrilled by his openness; but internally, I was conflicted. I guess, like all moms, even registered dietitians can get irritated when trying to understand why the introduction of new flavors is such a challenge.

Just when I was about to give up, my older son, Bobby, gave me the answer I’d been searching for.

“I don’t like the red part of the nectarine,” he said (which, of course, happens to be my favorite part).

Bobby added, “Mom, I just like everything the same! I like to have the same thing every night.”

As he often does, Bobby brought me back to reality. Kids like monotony. They like structure and knowing what their days—and their meals—will bring. Bobby understands the basic concepts of eating nutritiously, and so he makes an effort to eat a fruit, a vegetable, and a protein along with his favorite box of Annie’s Mac and Cheese. The last thing he wants, however, is to be adventurous in the kitchen. He just wants the same nutritious foods every night.

Billy is only three-and-a-half and is still unable to verbalize his needs and wishes. As moms, we sometimes become subjective and emotional, mistaking this lack of communication for something it isn’t. If we step back for a moment, observe (or in my case listen) to our children, it is possible to find clarity.

Boring food can be safe and predictable in an overly stimulating world ripe with change. Children relish in what they know, whether food, their school day or their bedtime ritual. If their plates are filled with nutritious and wholesome foods, be thankful. Continue exposing your children to new food, and try to enjoy the process rather than just endure.

Trying New Foods

Photo Credit: CarbonNYC via Compfight cc

A mother asks us: My child sometimes gets anxious when I introduce a new healthy food. What can I do to entice him to try and eat it?

Elyse Falk, MS, RD, Mom and Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, Mom answers…

Elyse Replies:

There are a few important things to remember when introducing your child to a new food.

First, it is a good idea to introduce the new ingredient with other foods that they already like to eat.

Next, make the entire process matter of fact. Tell your child that you found a great recipe that you know your friend’s kids really like, and you thought they would like it too. You can tell them what it is (a grain, veggie or protein) and maybe what nutrition it has. But that’s it. Keep it simple.

In my home, I eat the kinds of dishes I like in front of my kids so that I can be a role model and show them how much I enjoy trying new foods. Don’t get me wrong; there are recipes I have made that I just have to say, “Ugh, this really doesn’t taste good,” in front of them, but I think it also shows that I am human and that they can dislike certain foods too. The most important part is trying them. (Some parents choose to impart a “one-bite” rule in their homes, but I wouldn’t push it if it’s going to cause a tantrum.)

Don’t forget that food isn’t always love at first bite. It may take a few attempts for them to taste the new ingredient, so remember that exposure and repetitiveness is key. Try to introduce the new food in different ways by changing the flavor, texture (pureed vs. whole) or cooking method (steamed vs. roasted).

Friends and family may be your best allies too, as sometimes, siblings or friends could entice each other to try a new food. For example, if one sibling likes the food, and the other one has never tried it before and sees his or her sibling really enjoying new flavors, it usually draws interest and the desire to try them too.

At the end of the day though, remember that you don’t want to place too much pressure on your child. If they see you getting angry over the fact that they didn’t taste or like it, they may feel added pressure or anxiety the next time. Just teach them that, in certain instances, it is ok to reply, “no thank you,” and let it go. Children’s taste buds change every day, so don’t lose hope.

Laura Replies:

If your child is really picky, like my boys are, then start by exposing your son or daughter to the new food before even asking them to try it. Exposure is essential. Place the food on or perhaps just near their plate first. They don’t need to eat it, but they do need to leave it be. Even this can be a challenge. My boys still move the food away from their plate—and far away at that. But eventually, it gets on to their plate and stays there.

Once you’ve accomplished that simple yet monumental task, try implementing the one bite rule. If they refuse to take even a small bite, instead of making a big deal, instead try the one lick rule.

My boys are typically ok with the one lick rule. My oldest son, who is now 5 and a half, is even coming around to the one bite rule, of course, as long as he can spit it out if he doesn’t like it. At this point, if I can ask him to take one bite and swallow, he will—but only with certain foods.

Billy, my youngest, is still in the “one lick phase,” unless he sees something he actually wants to try. Billy has made a ton of progress. He tries a lot on his own now, even though he usually doesn’t like it. I know I was the same way as a child. I only ate macaroni with butter or cheese for almost two years. My mother took me to the doctor at the time; he said I would grow out of it, and I did.

I am still, however, quite picky with the quality of my food. I’ll try anything—even pig’s intestine—so long as it’s prepared well. In this sense, the kids definitely surprise me by which foods they will and will not try, so at least they inherited that from me too.

In the case that your child truly, adamantly does not want to taste an ingredient, you may benefit from simply letting it go and trying again a month later. You never know how their taste will evolve, especially at such a young age, so continue to offer and or expose them to new and different foods periodically. While it may seem like it at times, your children are not only going to eat mac n’ cheese and chicken nuggets forever, well – we hope.

Moms: Are your kids anxious around new ingredients? How do you get your kids to try new foods? Do they get their picky tendencies from you?

How This Mom Does It: Guest Blog Post By Suzanne Quint

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This week guest blogger Suzanne Quint discusses parenting books, and incorporating your culture into teaching children healthy eating habits.

I am a mom of 5 year old twins whom I am proud to count as good (but of course not always great) eaters. Being of Greek descent (read: food is everything), it was really important to me that my kids be good eaters.  I couldn’t imagine going through life with them with a rotation of chicken fingers and hot dogs.  So, upon the recommendation of my friend Kate, I followed Ellyn Satter’s Child of Mine book pretty religiously.  It was in fact, the only child development book, on any subject, I read.  I cannot recommend this book enough as a foundation and constant reinforcer for those formative early years.  Satter’s premise, in a nutshell, is that as parents we are in charge of what the kids eat and when – and that the kids are in charge of how much they eat.  She also incorporates the idea of having (some!) choice for your kids – so broccoli and cauliflower at the table, for example, and empower them to pick which they want.   As with most things in parenting, the key was consistency and perseverance, which at times was doubly hard with twins.   I’ll say that while we thought early on that my son was a picky eater and my daughter had the Greek-eating gene, he has really turned it around.  In hindsight, he was more stubborn (and still likes to make a big fuss here and there) but our perseverance on always presenting him with real food choices has paid off.  They don’t like everything but we don’t cater to them at mealtime either.  Some things they enjoy– spanakopita (or “spinach triangles” as we call them)– Trader Joe’s sells delicious and affordable one’s and FreshDirect has them too.  And if we order pizza, I balance this meal with telling them it has to have broccoli or spinach on it (their choice).

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

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President’s Weekend marked a milestone in my home. Typically, my youngest, Billy, only eats bananas from fruit vendors on the streets of NYC, but on Saturday he surprised me by eating one while sitting at the dining room table. The produce trend continued when the boys watched me peel butternut squash as I prepared dinner. Bobby recalled peeling carrots and cucumbers with me when he “was little” and also told Billy he needed to eat some form of protein with his pretzels. My husband and I just looked at each other and smiled.

I was eager to see how the boys would react to a little taste test I prepared for them that evening. Billy will only eat pasta in yogurt (it sounds disgusting but is actually quite tasty), so I thought it would be fun to let the boys try different kinds of pasta sauces.: pesto, yogurt and natural tomato sauce. Test One: Billy spit the pesto and pasta right out; Bobby did the same. Test Two: Bobby went on to try the pasta with red sauce. He described it as awful, yet ate it anyway, and when I offered more he took another bite. We even performed a Bonus Test–sprinkling Parmesan cheese on top of the pasta– and amazingly, Bobby liked it better without it.

I was heartened by the boys’ willingness to try the little samples I had prepared. The changes were small, but as any mom knows, any sort of openness to new foods is a step in the right direction. It gave me hope.

In an attempt to continue this adventurous streak, on Monday night I prepared a meatloaf made by the butcher at Whole Foods. If you remember, Bobby loved Whole Foods’ turkey meatloaf but the store rarely has it and when I tried to make him a homemade version he refused to eat it. (My husband and friends loved the homemade meatloaf, by the way.) Bobby asked where this meatloaf came from, and  I told him it was from Whole Foods. I hesitantly handed him a plate of meatloaf served with whole-wheat pasta and apple slices, worried that he’d know it was beef and not turkey. Astonishingly,  Bobby never inquired. His only request was that I cut the hard edges off, which I obliged. “I love turkey meatloaf!” he proudly declared, as he proceeded to finish his portion. I didn’t want to ruin the moment by correcting him, so I just let it be and happily watched my son enjoy a new food. This was the first time Bobby ate beef since he was 12 months old.

I’m happy to share that the apple slices were a huge success too. While the boys played chess on the iPad with their dad, I had sliced an organic apple using an apple corer and set them on a nice plate. I left the plate near the boys on the table without saying anything. Suddenly, Bobby declared loudly, “I love apple slices!” and proceeded to gobble them up while Billy licked one slice. He even asked for more, which prompted me to cut up extra and serve it with his meatloaf dinner.  I don’t think I did anything particularly remarkable that afternoon when my boys were suddenly excited to eat fruit—it wasn’t magic. Rather, I think that the boys were under the influence of their cousins, Lily and Sophia, whom they saw eating apple and orange slices the day before. The girls ate the fruits with such zest that they made it look appealing to the boys, and they’ve been eating apples ever since.

Just this morning the boys tried blueberries again. Bobby ate buckwheat pancakes. And although Billy didn’t actually add anything to his small ingredient repertoire, the weekend was still a success simply because he was willing to try new foods. Bobby’s apprehension about trying new foods has definitely been decreasing as he matures— these President’s Weekend taste tests are evidence of that. All of the small changes this weekend lead me to conclude something pretty big: There is a light at the end of the picky-eating tunnel. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made so far and I’ll continue to encourage my boys to have fun and try new foods during the meals and snacks to come. My boys may become adventurous eaters and share a love of yummy food like their parents after all!