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.

 

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?

Blast from the Past: 8 Tips to Increase Variety and Decrease Selective Eating

My oldest son, Bobby, and my youngest son, Billy, have thankfully made another step in the right direction of eating all food in moderation. As many of you know, my children, once adventurous eaters (well, at least Bobby was), have limited their variety more and more over the years.

Despite my nutrition background, I have internally struggled at times with my children’s restricted dietary intake and aversion to foods with different colors and textures. What we sometimes have to remind ourselves of is that kids’ habits, like those of their parents, are ever changing. Kids get tired of eating the same old foods over and over again, and just as current favorites fade, old favorites resume as well.

One of the best ways to increase the variety of foods your children eat and decrease selective eating is to reintroduce those former menu staples.

As time passes, I have realized that the apples don’t fall far from this tree. I too was a picky eater growing up and always fell on the lower end of the growth chart, sometimes nearly falling off altogether. Once, my parents even sent me to a doctor because all I would eat was macaroni with cheese or butter for 2 years straight. I couldn’t be convinced to eat a substantial amount of food either, and would say that I was full from half an apple. And, I really was.

For many different reasons—such as exposure to new foods and produce throughout my childhood and teenage years (I even experimented with vegetarianism and veganism)—I eventually figured out how to eat the right amount for me while incorporating a huge variety of ingredients and flavors. As I continue to observe my own children’s eating habits, I feel increasingly confident that, as time goes on, they too will acquire a new appreciation for texture, temperature, color, and quality. (I say quality because, I must admit, I have a penchant for fine ingredients, whether broccoli or a burger.)

So that brings me to the latest update on the home front. At one point, Bobby was happy eating pasta and spinach mixed up with feta or Parmesan cheese and a side of eggs. Then, he got “tired” of those flavors.

Recently, while sitting at dinner with my boys, Bobby said to me, “You know, I would eat the white part of the egg but not the yellow. I don’t like the yellow.” Of course, I had tried to just make him egg whites before; that’s all he ate for some time. But instead of reminding him of this, I said, “Okay, good to know.”

The next night for dinner, I made Bobby his usual whole-wheat mac and cheese with spinach and a side of applesauce (or apple slices). I also included a side of 2 egg whites, cooked without any flaws in the texture. And, well, he ate it up!

Photo Credit: Darny via Compfight cc

I can now officially say that Bobby’s dinner actually consists of a grain, a fruit, a veggie, a dairy and not 1 protein but 2! Now, this does not necessarily mean that Bobby is ready to eat a salad or dine at a fine restaurant. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But he is most definitely reincorporating former staples into his diet. Knowing that I changed, and that Bobby’s habits are changing as well, gives me joy, and I am loving every minute of observing this process.

This also gives me hope for Billy, who still refuses to eat basic dishes like pasta. I am happy to announce that, when looking in the freezer recently, I noticed a box of Dr. Praeger’s fish sticks. Billy used to gobble these up. Knowing that reintroducing certain foods, even after a hiatus, can be effective, I decided to serve some warm fish sticks to both boys the other evening for dinner. As it turns out, the timing was right, and Billy ate all of the fish sticks alongside his normal favorites of hummus, mango, cheese and Ak-Mak crackers. He has been happily eating the fish sticks for the past week now, and even declared, “I like fish!” Of course, this bout may end soon, but that’s par for the course.

Oddly enough, while away over Memorial Day weekend, a guest at my friend’s house commented on my children’s healthy eating behaviors. This baffled me, as I typically hear how my kids are picky, but this person realized that, while their choices are limited, their intake is generally healthy. If nothing else, I’ve at least managed to successfully inspire them to choose nutritious options most of the time. And if that’s the case, I’ll take what I can get for the time being.


Want to expand your child’s food repertoire? Here are a few tricks that have helped me through the years.

  1. Don’t forget that eating habits are always evolving. Think about your personal habits in the kitchen and when out to dinner, and how this affects your own children’s choices and habits.
  2. Talk with your children while they eat dinner. You may learn something about their likes and dislikes.
  3. Ask your children what they like to eat. It may surprise you what they come up with!
  4. Make your children the foods they request, so that they feel as though you’re heeding their wishes. Then, they may be more likely to comply with yours!
  5. Let your children observe you eating a range of foods to help pique their interest.
  6. Be patient, and don’t force feed.
  7. Reintroduce former favorites and new foods with something you know they like to ease the process along.
  8. Most importantly, reintroduce old favorites and former staples on a regular basis. What they loved yesterday might be off limits tomorrow, and what’s off limits tomorrow might be their future favorite!

The Hamburger Bun (minus the hamburger)

They boys absolutely love to go food shopping with me. So when it’s time to restock the kitchen, Billy and Bobby hop into the double stroller, and the three of us take a nice long walk to the Whole Foods in Tribeca (my favorite of their Manhattan locations).

It’s not just the boys who benefit from our little shopping excursions either; I love sharing this experience too, since it gives them the opportunity to pick out all their favorite foods while getting a taste for all the beautiful fruits and veggies on display. Quirky fun fact: They also love checking out ostrich and emu eggs.

While perusing the supermarket aisles, the boys usually grab household staples off the shelves like Kashi Heart to Heart, Laughing Cow cheese and hummus. But on our last trip, Bobby decided to pull one out of left field and toss hamburgers buns into the cart. Hamburger buns?

Of course, my gut reaction was, “Ugh, why can’t my kids try a fruit or vegetable instead of another form of bread?” It wasn’t long before I came to my senses though, and thought, “Well, why not?”

I asked Bobby what he would use the rolls for (considering he doesn’t eat hamburgers), to which he innocently replied, “peanut butter.” Case closed. We bought them.

That night, I decided to take advantage of the rolls to whip up a “grilled chicken sandwich”—a hearty and wholesome meal I knew Bobby would enjoy. (I also knew getting him to try it would be a challenge. More on that to come.)

To create my masterful meal, I simply placed Bell & Evans breaded chicken tenders between the whole-wheat buns and slathered on some ketchup. As predicted, Bobby protested, screaming that he didn’t like it even though he hadn’t taken a bite yet.

Standing in the dining room, Bobby glared at the sandwich as if it were crawling with bugs. “You like all of these foods individually,” I told him. “Just try it.” It’s true; Bobby likes chicken and ketchup and bread. The idea that he could be so repulsed by the combination of all three ingredients was not beyond comprehension.

It wasn’t easy, but after a bit of gentle encouragement, I saw Bobby out of the corner of my eye as he walked over to the once disgusting sandwich and took a bite. And you know what? He did like it! In fact, Bobby liked the sandwich so much that he grabbed the remains and brought it with him into the living room, chomping away while watching TV.

Like I’ve said before, I’m by no means perfect. But on that fateful evening, Bobby and I actually accomplished something: he tried—and approved of—a new combination of food. It was a triumph in my mind.

Would I have preferred if he ate his chicken sandwich in the kitchen, at a table, near a napkin and while my husband and I, instead of staring at the TV? Yes. But sometimes, especially when dealing with a fussy eater, you have to pick your battles.

Do your kids claim to hate foods before trying them? How did you coax them into taking a bite?