Even though they don’t write blogs or have their own television shows on the Food Network, there are few bigger food critics than children. As any parent who’s spent long hours trying to get their child to eat something other than chicken nuggets or french fries knows all too well, children go through frustrating phases where nothing seems appealing at mealtime other than their favorite foods.
Since a child has to occasionally eat something that isn’t deep fried, parents face a dilemma trying to determine when to stand their ground and when should they just give in and feed their child what he or she wants to eat?
No matter how frustrated they might become, parents must fight the temptation to turn mealtime into a battle of wills with their children. Instead of forcing a child to eat a particular fruit or vegetable they don’t want, parents would be better served by continuing to offer their child a variety of healthy options until they find one he or she will eat. Many children take a long time deciding whether they like a new food, so don’t get discouraged if at first you don’t succeed.
Here are a few strategies that will help you expand your child’s culinary horizons come mealtime.
The Vegetable Dilemma
It’s not uncommon for parents to hear a child say he hates brussel sprouts, asparagus, zucchini, and a whole host of other vegetables even though he’s never tried them. One of the reasons children seem so opposed to vegetables before taking their first bite is the strong aromas and tastes many vegetables have after cooking.
To a child’s still developing senses, these strong sensations can seem quite intimidating at first. It’s important that parents remain patient as a child decides whether to try a new food item. She might want to look at and smell the food prior to eating, and she could end up spitting it right back out. In these moments all a parent can do is take a calming breath and try again.
One solution to get your child to try a wider variety of foods is to let them participate in the selection process. Many children tend to warm up to new foods when they have an opportunity to select what’s for dinner. It also becomes harder for a child to refuse to eat something they picked out.
Parents should also experiment with offering their child vegetables in a variety of colors. If your son doesn’t seem interested in eating green leafy vegetables, try offering him veggies of a different color, such as orange or red, instead. Through a little trial and error, you’ll be able to find vegetables your child won’t mind eating.
The Sugar Dilemma
Does your child have a serious sweet tooth? Does every morning start with him insisting on sugary cereal for breakfast, and when you open his lunchbox you find the cookie gone but everything else still intact? At dinner, does he beg for desert before he’s eaten anything else off of his plate? Parents can easily find themselves dealing with a child who only wants to eat items that satisfy his sweet tooth.
Parents can help satisfy their child’s sweet tooth while cutting back on the amount of sugar they consume by feeding her snacks that are naturally sweet, such as grapes, apple slices, fruit, and low-fat yogurt. Parents should also consider keeping fewer sweet treats in the home so they won’t be tempted to give in when their child ask for some candy. Parents should also avoid enabling their child’s sweet tooth by using candy as a bribe or a reward for good behavior. Sweets have a role as part of a balanced diet, but shouldn’t be used as a reward for a child who eats their vegetables.
Timothy Lemke blogs about healthy eating habit for the dentists at Tigard Dental.