"I can't believe your kids eat that!" is something we've gotten pretty used to hearing when feeding the littles around friends and family, or out at a restaurant. What would they be eating that is so mind-blowing to those making this comment? Maybe its the couscous with roasted vegetables. Maybe its the broccoli and carrot salad. Maybe, just maybe, it is the chicken and veggie quesadillas. All I know, is that our babies love to EAT! They have been great eaters since we started introducing solid foods as they showed interest, but I think the fact that we have been very intentional in the way that we feed them has helped out quite a bit in ensuring that they rarely refuses to at least try something new. If you are wondering how you might be able to get your little one to break away from the boxed and canned foods and try out more fresh fruits and veggies, as well as homemade meals, then maybe some of the suggestions below will get them moving in the right direction :).
Suggestion #1: DO NOT FORCE A CHILD TO EAT SOMETHING THEY ARE CLEARLY NOT INTERESTED IN EATING!!!
I can remember, almost as clearly as if it happened 5 minutes ago, a night growing up that I literally had to sit at the table all night until I finished a disgusting pasta meal (some kind of dried out noodles with tomatoes and anchovies...) that my parents had picked up from the grocery store deli earlier that day. I cried, I begged, I refused, but nothing I did changed their minds-I was going to sit at the table until every last bit of that food was gone. I remember wondering what I had done to deserve such a punishment. I mean, I was one of the least picky eaters I knew-I ate, and enjoyed, almost all foods, and I was always willing to give new foods a try a try. I ended up throwing the food in the garbage after hours of sitting at the table getting nowhere, and I got away with it because I hid it in the very bottom of the garbage can so that no one could see it. What was the point of this whole story? Forcing a child to eat something they either do not like or are not interested in is going to put you farther behind in your attempts to get them to at least try new things.
Suggestion #2: DO NOT BRIBE A CHILD TO TRY NEW FOODS OR EAT WHAT YOU HAVE GIVEN THEM!!!
You should NOT reward your child with material objects or special privileges when it comes to eating. This only sets them up to expect a reward in other areas, such as following simple directions that you've given, cleaning up, getting ready for bed, etc. The "reward" for eating well should always be focused on one thing-having a healthy & strong body because of the healthy choices you've made. When our little ones try something new, we always praise them and tell them how proud we are, and how making such good choices is what makes them so strong and healthy :).
Suggestion #3: DON'T CRITICIZE A CHILD THAT IS UNWILLING TO TRY/EAT SOMETHING YOU HAVE GIVEN THEM!!!
To me, this just goes along with being an empathetic parent. By being critical of your child in any area of their lives, you are telling them that their self-worth and value come from them acting a certain way, doing a certain thing, etc. It can be extremely frustrating when your child seems bent on eating bananas all day every day, but continue to praise them for the things you think are going well (Mommy loves how you ate all of your banana! Bananas are so good for you!), and put the rest behind you.
Suggestion #4: CONTINUE TO OFFER THE FOOD, EVEN IF THEY REFUSE TO TRY!!!
There have been plenty of times that our kids have showed absolutely no interest in whatever it was that we were wanting them to try, and even some times when they flat out refused to even have the new food on their tray! What did we do? Keep on trying! At every meal, we would place the new food on the plate, and wait to see their reactions. If they would shake their heads, we would just proceed with placing something they were already familiar with and fond of on the plate next to the new food, and continue the feeding. If they began to throw the food off the plate, we would tell them that we do not throw food in a calm voice, and then remove the food and continue the feeding. Eventually (sometimes DAYS later), curiosity would get the best of them and they would try the food! Sometimes, they would decide that they instantly loved the new food and gobble it all up. Sometimes, they would spit it out and move on to the foods they were already familiar with. In those cases, we would continue to offer it, which has almost always led to them continuing to try it, and eventually liking, the new food. Just be patient, and remember that it can take time for a little one to decide they like the taste/texture of the new foods being offered!
Suggestion #5: EAT AS A FAMILY!!!
One of the greatest ways to entice a little person to try something new is to let them see what you are eating, which tends to lead them into asking for a bite (because we all know what is one someone else's plate is so much more interesting and yummy then what is on their plate!). We always sit down at the table together and our kids almost always asks for a bite of what we are having, so we give it to them! If they are really interested, we will put a serving of the food on their plate, and let them dig in :).
Suggestion #6: NEVER SAY, "YOU WON'T LIKE THAT!"
It drives me INSANE when I hear parents tell their children that they won't like something. How do you know if they aren't trying it?!? This is just setting your child up to have an excuse in the future for not trying something new! If there is something that our littles are interested in that they cannot have (nuts, something extremely spicy, something too crunchy), then I tell them exactly why they cannot have it yet (You can try this when you are a little older, but right now it is so crunchy, and Mommy is afraid you might choke. When your teeth get a little bigger like Mommy's, then you can definitely have a bite!). Just be honest with your kids about why you don't want them to try the food, but please don't tell them that it is because they won't like it! Let them be the judge of that when you are ready for them to try it :).
These are just a few of the things that we feel have contributed to our little ones being such amazing eaters. Do you have some suggestions that have worked for you? I'd love to hear about them in the comments section below!