The other day I had the following conversation with my three year old:
3 year old: What are we having for dinner?
Me: Chicken, carrots and couscous
3 year old: I don’t like that.
Me: But you ate it last week.
Sigh. Sound familiar? Getting kids to eat healthy foods is tough, but I do believe there are some strategies you can implement early to set your kids up with healthy eating habits.
1. Don’t give up. If your little one doesn’t like a new food, keep trying! It can take up to a dozen times before a child takes to a new food. Persistence is key. It isn’t easy, but it works.
2. Don’t make a big deal about it. This goes hand in hand with not giving up. If your little one tries a food and doesn’t like it, don’t freak out, make a big deal or force him to keep trying. Just accept your little one’s opinion and move on. You can come back to the food a few days later. Along the same vein, when I am offering a new food, I try to avoid making any comments about whether my kids will like it. I just put the food on the plate, answer any questions if my son asks and act very casually. The more casual I am, the more casual my son is about trying something new.
3. Keep portions small. A huge plate of food can feel really overwhelming. Try to offer a taste or a small portion of a new food with other foods you know your child enjoys eating.
4. Eat together. Everyone in my family eats the same meal. When we sit down to eat, I try to model the behavior I want my kids to emulate. If we are trying a new food, we do it together. Since crazy schedules can make this hard, I am mindful of only offering new foods when we aren’t in a huge rush. I also make sure we have lots of meals that are a surefire hit that way mealtime does not become a sore spot.
5. Second options. If my kids refuse to eat what I made, and I know it is something they like and have eaten in the past, I don’t make a second meal. Nine times out of ten, if he is hungry, my son will eventually eat what I made. Controversial? Maybe. But my son knows that he can’t get out of eating healthy foods by claiming he doesn’t like something. If I am making a brand new dish he has not tried, I always have a back up in case he doesn’t like it. But I hold off on offering it until I can tell he really doesn’t want to eat it.
6. Cook together. I bring my three year old into the kitchen to help out all the time. When he is involved in cooking a meal, he is much more invested in eating it.
Do you have any tips for forming healthy eating habits?
Photo credit: eliasqz / Foter / CC BY-SA