They stare at the food then at you, as you brace for another challenging dinner.
You know they have their feet dug in, and it is going to be a tough sell to get them to eat another food they really don’t care to eat.
Do not despair!
There are a few tried and true approaches that may work for you!
Learn the easy ways to make food fun, interesting and good to eat.
You’ll also get proven recommendations to help you build good strong eating habits as an entire family.
1. Remember the Rainbow
If it is fruits and vegetables they are turning their noses up at, try to keep it interesting.
When you are going to the grocery store pick, or let them pick a different color of the rainbow for each day.
Kids love to be involved in the process and are more apt to eat the fruits and vegetables in question if they pick it out. It also doesn’t hurt to make a big deal about them picking it out when it is served at the dinner table!
The great thing in today’s world is that grocery stores have such a wide variety of produce from all over the world, most of the year. Sometimes as adults we become unwilling to try new things.
We get into a routine of eating the same things over and over again.
We may think to ourselves that since we didn’t like it years ago, we still won’t. That may or may not be true.
As parents, it is good for us to try something new once in a while.
If you let your kids know you are trying something new also, it will give them a sense that you are in the same boat as they are.
2. Fresh Is Best
Most kids prefer fresh vegetables to cooked ones.
Try sprinkling a tasty seasoning on the vegetables or try a healthy dip made from Greek yogurt and your family’s favorite spices. Fresh typically is better too because the nutritional value is not boiled, pan-fried, or baked out of them.
Albeit some vegetables, including broccoli and tomatoes, do have health benefits when cooked. Avoid frying vegetables.
Frying causes foods to have free radicals that damage cells in our bodies that can cause cancer.
If your child is not opposed to having their foods combined, try mixing vegetables together with their favorites; like broccoli and mac and cheese, or peas and mashed potatoes.
3. Have a Typical Meal Time Together
Many studies show that eating as a family encourages healthy eating, positive self-esteem, and a feeling of security and connection.
According to the American College of Pediatricians, “Children ages 9-14 who have more regular dinners with their families have more healthful dietary patterns, including eating more fruits and vegetables, less saturated and trans fat, fewer fried foods and sodas, lower glycemic load and more vitamins and other micronutrients.”
ACPEDS also advises that “Family meals provide structure for the day, allowing children to feel secure and safe, knowing what to expect. They also permit parental monitoring of children’s moods, behaviors, and activities, providing parents with insight into the emotional well-being of their children.”
It is a great way to find out who they’re hanging around, eating lunch with, and what may be causing them trouble.
As I was reading this article from ACPED, I found a fun and engaging activity. The article suggests encouraging open conversation utilizing a technique such as sharing “A rose, thorn, or bud – something during the day that was happy (rose), sad (thorn), and (bud) something the person is looking forward to.”
Some of their other suggestions include, “requiring everyone to stay at the table until all family members are finished” or asking to be excused.
This teaches manners and respect.
ACPEDS also proposes that, “The family table is one of the very few places that children can observe their parents interact, negotiate, solve problems, express emotions and treat one another with respect.
A child’s world is mostly spent with peers and teachers; the family table gives them a chance to see how adults interact and cooperate.”
I realize in today’s busy world of running kids all over creation, being together at a certain time can be difficult.
However, with a little thought and planning, it can be done, even if only a few of your family members are together.
It doesn’t have to be a home cooked meal at 5 pm.
It can be any food (preferably healthy) and can be done at 10 am, 3 pm, or 8 pm. Take the time to do this, you will reap many benefits in the long run.
4. Be a Good Role Model
If our kids see us eating healthy they will likely follow suit.
We can try new things too and may find we like something we’ve never tried before. Our taste buds change as we age, so something we didn’t like a year ago may be tasty to us now.
I know what a tough sell it can be even for us adults, but keeping phones away from the dinner table creates a platform of open dialogue.
Try having everyone put their phones on the counter, silenced so as not to cause issues with the dinging and wanting to know what is going on.
Start by making an effort to do it just a few times a week and add days as you go. Believe me, I know it can be difficult at times, but everyone will only be away from their phones for a short time!
5. Don’t Force the Issue
Introduce the new foods, but don’t push it on them.
Put, or have them put a small portion of the less desired food on their plate. If they don’t try it at first, that’s okay.
Give it a couple of times and eventually they’ll sample it. If the kiddos don’t like it at first, keep trying. If they truly despise the food, move on to something else. Don’t make it into a big deal. The idea is to try to expand their food horizons for their whole life.
As parents we want the best for our kids and our family as a whole.
How do you facilitate your finicky family to feast on new fare?
Do you have any suggestions for trying new foods? I would love to hear your thoughts!