Ever feel like you might have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting your child to eat vegetables?
Don’t despair, because as Bee Wilson, a food writer and mother of three in Cambridge, England, told listeners on a recent National Public Radio program: "As parents, we have a far greater power than we think we have to form children's tastes."
But what if you have a picky eater who refuses to eat anything but chicken nuggets?
“Our taste buds actually change daily,” says registered dietician Hannah Michaels, a nutrition adviser at the Orlando-based Nutritious Lifestyles, a program funded locally by Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County. “And the truth is, children usually have more of an issue with texture than the flavor of a food.”
In fact, children may need to be presented with a food 15 or 20 times before they learn to eat it, says Dr. Mary L. Gavin, a senior medical editor at KidsHealth.
“Look for recipes with ingredients your kids like and invite them to join you in the grocery shopping, cooking and serving of foods,” Gavin says. “Sometimes preparing foods differently, presenting foods in interesting ways, or using cookie cutters to cut food into fun shapes can make foods more appealing to picky eaters.”
Michaels also underscores the importance of involving your child in meal preparation.
“Usually when a child is refusing to eat, it's because they are trying to get their way. Putting food in their mouth is one of the few things they can control as a child,” she says. “Involving your child in food preparation and how you present the food will be key to getting your child to eat. Imagine your child coming home from school to bowls of freshly cut fruit, some chocolate chips and some yogurt to mix everything together. He or she likely will be pretty excited to have a healthy snack that they get to prepare because children are all about hands-on experiences that are fun and appealing to the eye.”
• National Public Radio
• Hannah Michaels, Nutritious Lifestyles
• Environmental Working Group