Have a Picky Eater?
If you have a picky eater, you’re in good company! That’s exactly why I started writing this blog. I don’t think it’s ever too late (or too early!) to begin teaching your child healthy eating habits.
The Problem: Why are our kids such picky eaters?
Have you ever noticed that most kids’ menus at American restaurants are limited to macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, hamburgers and fries?
The closest thing children get to a vegetable when eating off the kids’ menu is usually ketchup, which is like a tomato in that it’s red, but with the addition of a whopping serving of sugar and without real tomato flavor.
The problem is we think that kids won’t eat healthy foods – or at least not knowingly. Vegetables, then, become a necessary evil; they are nutrient receptacles that parents stealthily sneak into smoothies, cookies, and brownies, but children are not expected to eat them on their own, much less develop an actual appreciation for them. After a quick google search of “vegetables for kids,” three of the top nine results – fully one third – give ideas on how to hide vegetables in kid-friendly foods.
The idea that vegetables can and should be eaten incognito, is, I think, misguided because by disguising vegetables with other flavors, we never teach our children to value the unique and rich palate of flavor that this food group offers. Kids are ultimately short changed when they are only offered “kid food” because they aren’t being taught to love real food.
Why don’t we offer our kids fruits and vegetables more often? Or spices? More flavorful varieties of cheese? For the simple (but wrong) reason that we think kids won’t like them. Children may be offered broccoli, curry, gouda, or mango once or twice, and when it is rejected, we assume the flavor isn’t to their liking, and we often become frustrated and move on to other foods.
In French Kids Eat Everything, Karen LeBillon writes that French parents teach eating skills the same way that they teach sharing, potty training, and reading – all of which are important life skills that, although never learned on the first try, are taught continually until mastered. This French concept of éducation when applied to eating means that if a child doesn’t appreciate the savory flavor of artichoke or the earthy sweetness of beets, then he or she simply hasn’t been exposed to them enough, and he will learn to enjoy the flavor with time and repeated offerings.
How, then, can we re-educate our children to appreciate healthy eating? My goal with this blog is to create or adapt recipes to help parents instill in their children a love of eating real food.
There are lots of ways to encourage your picky child to try different kinds of foods, but I’ve found that the most important rule is to eliminate snacking – if kids know they can simply wait you out for goldfish later, there is no reason for them to try that asparagus on the plate.
But that’s only part of the puzzle – click below for more helpful, easy ways to help your child become a more adventurous eater.
Click here for 10 Simple Ways to Raise a Better Eater