Understand what’s normal. Most children slowly warm up to unfamiliar foods and may have to see, watch you eat, touch, or taste a food 15 to 20 (or even more) times before he learns to like it. Even after you child learns to like a food, he won’t eat it every time.
Be patient and persistent, without pressure or judgment. Consistency is key. Give them regular opportunities to watch you eat, touch, taste, lick (even if they spit out -keep the napkins handy) and smell foods.
Be Neutral when offering new foods. It’s helpful to matter-of-factly include new foods in family meals and allow your kids to see you enjoy it yourself. With my daughter, I find it helpful to offer a new food in addition to other healthy foods that she may like, but not her absolute favorites. One of two things usually happens, she gobbles up the familiar food, for example broccoli, and not eat much of anything else OR she is willing to taste some of the new food. In either case she’s gotten some real food in her body and that feels like a win.
Involve your child in the cooking and meal preparation process. Both of my children love to play in our vegetable garden and pick the veggies. Occasionally my daughter will even eat something if she grew it herself. Since they were able to sit up and be in the kitchen with me, I’ve involved them in the meal preparation process on some level.
Have conversations with your kids about food. Explain to them WHY you’re offering certain foods. Help them make connections between what they eat and how they feels. Share your own experiences with them. Teach them that food is fuel for their body.
Capitalize on the times when your child is hungry. It is amazing what my children eat when they are truly hungry. I encourage my moms to figure out their child’s patterns, and be prepared with a healthy meal at the time when they are most hungry. My kids are starving at 4:45pm, so I do my best to be prepared with fresh cut veggies or something fast and nutritious at that time. Whenever possible, I actually feed them “dinner” at that time. If I give them a processed food snack to “hold them over”, the chances of them wanting “real food” later is slim.
Get clear about your responsibilities for feeding your child and also your child’s responsibilities.
In our home I try to following these guidelines:
- The parents control what, and to some extent when, foods are provided.
- Each person (including the individual child) decides whether or not to eat the food, and how much to eat.
Eat together as a family as often as possible. Modeling is the best way to teach your children anything. If they don’t eat with you, they are missing out on this experience. Eating family meals also fosters connection, which is also incredibly important for your child’s health. Even if they hate what I made for dinner (yes, this happens), our mealtime experience can be positive. I ask that they still sit at table and participate in dinnertime because I’ve missed them during the day and want to spend the time together.
Be patient with yourself. Raising Healthy Eaters is about creating habits that will last a lifetime. This is not a simple or quick process.