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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tips to Encourage Good Eating

Some kid-friendly tips:

Love and appreciation of food
Teach your kids to love food by treating food with respect. Show them how much you enjoy your meal.
Talk about the food – how it looks, how it tastes, the texture, (if needed) how can you can cook it better next time, etc.
This country has all the variety of foods in the world! We take it for granted when we really should be grateful for it.

Recognition, Repetition, Deconstruction
Most people don’t feel comfortable when they can’t recognize what they are eating. It could be a snake, or a horse, or some weird vegetable, or is the dish going to be too hot/spicy??? You got the idea.
You know by now what your child likes or dislikes. It might be mushy food, one-pot-dishes, black/brown/green pools of “something” that are usually are being looked at with suspicion.
When the food is familiar people, especially kids will feel safer about trying it.

Make food identifiable by serving whole pieces (like fillet of fish, chops, steak, etc), serve vegetables in bite size (like broccoli/cauliflower cut to florets) diced big, or whole (like cherry tomatoes).

Deconstruct the one-pot dish. Separate the ingredients before serving so if they don’t like one thing, they have a choice of another ingredient, and not reject the whole dish altogether. If you are making something like sushi or tacos you can serve the ingredients separately and each person can assemble their own dish using the ingredients they like.

Kids change their minds about food. What they like one day, they might not like a few days/weeks/months later, and vice versa. If they didn’t care much for the meatloaf you cooked yesterday, make it again after a few weeks and so on. They might change their mind as they get familiar with this dish (don’t forget the one bite rule J).

Give your child a “job” in mealtime preparation
Starting at age 2 or 3 kids can help. It can be setting the table, cleaning up, cooking, etc.
Start with the weekends, when you have more time and energy.

Make conversation that is not focused on your kid’s plate

Not recommended to:
Let kids eat snack right before or after dinner (or drink juice/milk)
Put a lot of food on their plate. Give them a chance to ask for seconds and/or serve food for themselves (and maybe others too).
Fight, force, beg, threaten, bribe… make a big deal out of food

Try to accommodate some dislikes:
You know what your kids really really don’t like: it can be onions, green herbs, leafy greens, black specs, and the list goes on…
Black pepper – ground it fine
Green specs – leave herbs on the stem, tie with string, pull out when dish is ready (for example, in soups and stews), or chop big so they can put it on the side.
Onions – kids like the taste of cooked onions (it’s sweet) but not the texture. Dice it big (so you/kids can take it out) or mince it small (so it melts when cooked)
Cooked leafy greens (like chard, kale, etc) – cut to big pieces. The greens have already contributed to the dish, it’ll be easier to put on the side or take out.
Vegetables your kids might like (small and cute) – cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, baby potatoes. Also, avocado, bell pepper and cucumber cut to strips/rounds, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes.

And don’t worry, one day they will eat that lettuce!

Meanwhile, have fun!


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