The only vegetables six-year-old Heather eats are French fries and ketchup-and that’s using the term “vegetable” loosely. What’s alarming is that she’s not alone. Today over 60 percent of children, ages two to nine, don’t consume the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
You might be surprised, even the most resistant child can learn to love healthy foods. Kids discover that veggies are yummy when you engage all their senses. By making a few simple changes in your routine, you can teach your kids to love vegetables.
In a nutshell, fast food and junk food have replaced whole food. Before you even begin, you must stock healthful foods. It’ll be difficult to convince your picky eater to eat nutritious foods, if sugar, white flour, and altered fats are common ingredients found in your kitchen. Read labels and clean out junk foods from your kitchen! Replace processed snack items with nuts, fruit, and veggies slices.
Obviously, your kid’s snacking must be controlled. A child, who has eaten less than an hour and half before a meal, won’t eagerly eat a food predetermined to be “yucky!” And don’t expect your child will love a new food the first time it’s offered.
Do expect your kid to discover all the food’s attributes. Involve all the senses. A common misconception is that a veggie is rejected because of its taste. But according to current research, dislike of various foods most often results from the texture, smell, or even the color of what is to be eaten.
Eating vegetables is a learning process and you’re the teacher so enjoy eating them yourself! Learning involves all the senses. This is called multi-sensory learning. For the picky eater to be transformed into a healthy eater, it’s vital that you include all the senses during mealtimes. Discuss the attributes of various foods with your child. Pick up and feel its texture. What color is it? What does it smell like? How does it feel in your mouth? Make it fun! Kids love to be a part of the process.
Involve your child with grocery shopping. Have your toddler hold an item from the produce department, while you’re shopping in the store. Discuss the value of the foods you’re purchasing. Give older children a job to do, such as reading the nutrition facts on labels. For example, look for the sugar content on the nutrition label or convert grams to teaspoons before placing items in your cart. Another idea is to have your child to pick one item from the produce department, which he has never tasted. Then get your kids involved in meal preparation.
Make mealtime a happy family time. The table should be a stress-free zone. It’s vital that both dad and mom keep the conversation around the table happy. A good way to transition from a hectic day is to begin the meal by thanking God for what He has done.
Always discuss how wonderful the food smells and tastes, especially vegetables. Take every opportunity during mealtimes to educate your child about healthful foods. Always be positive about the food served.
In every way, reinforce Try Rannosaurus’ favorite exclamation, “Green food is Yummy!” Try is one of the characters I created to incorporate multi-sensory learning for young picky eaters in my book, Baby Bites: Transforming a Picky Eater into a Healthy Eater.
Negative remarks made at the table cement the idea that some food tastes yucky. All family members (including older siblings or even Daddy) may make only affirmative comments about the food. Phrases such as “I don’t like that” “It’s disgusting” and “It’s yucky” are to be forbidden.
Remember to have only nutritious snacks on hand, limit snacking to at least an hour and a half before meals, and to praise your child for eating whole foods. Be patient. Give your youngster time to learn about the food’s texture and how it smells. Food, which your child has previously refused, most likely will be sampled between ten and twenty times before acceptance. Tiny bites of formerly rejected foods are steps in the direction of healthy eating.
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