Raising a healthy eater begins as soon as you introduce baby food. You are creating and establishing your child’s healthy eating habits. Even if you did not set the tone with baby food there are simple and efficient ways to make sure that you are raising a healthy eater. Here are a few ways to raise a child that is a healthy eater at different stages of life.
Infant:When introducing baby foods start by introducing all vegetables and then introducing fruit later.
Our son’s doctor told us to introduce food this way because fruit is sweeter. You do not want your child to get used to the taste of sweeter foods, because vegetables are bitter tasting. Giving your child vegetables first so they learn to like the taste of veggies opens their taste buds to a variety of food.
Toddler 1-3 years: Model health eating and don’t overreact about veggies!
When introducing new foods make sure your child tries the food a variety of different ways. Model healthy eating habits. If you constantly eat fast food then your child will only want fast food. If you do not eat your veggies, neither will your child. If you make a big deal about vegetables begin nasty they they will automatically assume vegetables are nasty, without even tasting them. Children react to our reactions. When you make a big deal about something, like how hard it is to eat vegetables, then your child will make a big deal about eating vegetables. So just model healthy eating habits to your child. Make sure that your child is eating vegetables and fruits with every meal, every day.
Children 4 and older: Try foods a variety of ways. Do not allow your child to decide what they will or will not eat. Allow your child to make healthy decisions.
Some doctors suggest that a child needs to taste a food 10-15 times in order to determine whether or not they like it!
If you give your child broccoli, and they tell you they don’t like it, try giving it to them parmesean cheese,or steamed, or sauteed with butter or olive oil or even baked in a cassarole. If your child is reluctant to try a new food make sure that you set the president that you have to a least try something new. I like to call it a mommy thank-you bite. Everytime we try a new food I tell Jay that he has to a least take a few bites as a way of saying thank-you mommy for cooking.
If you try foods in a variety of ways, and they still do not want to eat it then after trying to serve the foods in multiple ways on different occasions, then you can say that your child does not like it. Then you as the parent can decide if you will continue to serve the food or not.
When Jay started eating solids our doctor told us never cook a separate meal for him. Whatever you cook for dinner is what he eats. When you begin to cook a different meal for your child then what the family is eating, you are letting them know that they have a choice in what they eat, that they do not have to eat what you prepared. Growing up with my Grandma, she would make us stay at the table (in the dark) until we had eaten everything on our plates. My mom was much more lenient. If she cooked something that you didn’t like for dinner, then you didn’t have to eat it, BUT she was not going to cook additional food for the meal. I do the same for my child. No they will not starve. Yes they will cry and whine and may even go to bed hungry but children need to understand that you are ensuring they are healthy by serving nutritious foods.
So what happens when your child refuses to eat anything you prepare. When Jay was 4 he went through a picky eating stage. I would prepare his lunch and he did not want to eat it. Food that he previously ate before now was nasty. Food like baked chicken, or green peas. He would whine, and pout and tell me that he was not going to eat his food. So I would wrap it up and then give it to him for dinner. And you know what, at dinner time he ate it. ALL of his food. I know you are probably thinking that I am cruel but I am being a parent. I can’t say I am providing the best for my child if I allow them to decide what they will eat at 4. I have many stories working with little ones of parents who have succumbed to their child’s picky eating. Everything from children who only will eat cold pizza for lunch, or soy sauce and rice fr dinner; children whose whole diet consists of only fast food. These children are either extremely obese have high blood pressure, or other health problems. I understand that as a parent you want to make your child healthy, but if making them happy is risking their health then are you TRULY making them happy or just momentarily satisfied, If they have reached the point where they can dictate what they eat, then yes it will be hard to undo what has been done, but you have to stand strong. If you continue to allow your child their unhealthy food diet then they will encounter some serious health risk when they get older, and is it really worth it?
Allowing your child to make healthy decisions is about choices. Yes in the beginning you will make the healthy choices, and as they get bigger allow them to choose. This does not mean asking them ‘what do you want for dinner?’, and then trying to explain to them that french fires and a burger is not what you had in mind. Ask questions where both choices are ideal for you, like ‘for dinner would you like broccoli or kale?’ Both options are healthy. If your child has tasted broccoli but not kale you are giving them the option of trying something new. Or ask your child to choose a veggie while at the grocery store or farmers market. Giving your child the power of choice makes them feel like they came to the decision on their own and that gives them power.