My husband and I value having kids that eat most foods. And we appreciate when our kids will TRY new foods. If you hold this value, plan to try new foods yourself and offer super small (the size of a grain of rice) portions of everything you are eating to your child once they are old enough, usually after they turn one. When my children don't want to eat any more dinner, they are allowed to stop eating.
But they may not raid the cabinets or fridge later for junk food. They may eat fruit or veggies at any time. If we are serving dessert, or if someone gets out ice cream and offers it to everyone, they may have some...even if they did not "finish" their dinner. If they have enough dinner left on their plate to save for lunch the next day, we will do that, otherwise it is not saved. I do not want to raise overweight children who feel guilty if they don't eat everything on their plate. Since I struggle with this personally, I have worked to teach the importance of not taking too much to start and to take 2nds if they're still hungry after the first plateful.
Texture is often the culprit when a child, or adult, doesn't enjoy a food. I have a son who truly dislikes the texture of beans. He will eat beans if he must but he will respectfully ask if he can eat something else. He tries beans every time we serve them and so far has not changed his opinion. I can appreciate his preference since he is respectful and willing to eat beans if necessary. But if we are having a dish with beans, I usually take out a portion of the dish for him before adding the beans. He appreciates this and still tries a bite of the dish with the beans before eating his bean-less portion. I have every confidence he will continue to try beans. Funny thing though, is he loves hummus...a paste made of ground up chick peas. Go figure...
Another idea that really helps to get kids to try veggies is to grow them yourselves. I loved seeing my little toddlers in the garden munching on beans, peas or tomatoes with their daddy. They still enjoy gardening and making fresh veggie salads...and experimenting with different dressings. They love to flip through seed catalogs and go to the garden sections of stores to shop for young plants every spring. We often gave them each a section of the garden to grow their own fruit and veggies. All but Grace would choose watermelon as their fruit. Grace wanted strawberries. Strawberries and snap peas. Our family's favorite salad, probably because it's easy to make, is chopped cucumber and tomato with basil chiffonade and a vinaigrette. Valuable lessons are learned in the garden.
New research shows the key to getting any picky eater to LIKE new foods is to introduce the new food multiple times in super small portions...the size of a grain of rice. Children exposed to previously rejected foods this way, went from eating, on average, 3-4 specific foods to 64 different foods in 3 weeks. It seems to be a combination of exposure and familiarity in a small enough portion to only be a taste, not a texture. Once the taste becomes familiar, the texture doesn't seem to be as much of an obstacle. Certainly worth a try.
So try to set aside dinnertime to eat together as a family as much as possible.
Create habits now while your children are young that will follow you as your children grow. Choose topics to discuss during dinner. Talk about your day or ask your older children about their day. If something has happened nationally or internationally, discuss the issues. Make it part of your daily life. Teach your children to give their opinion and ask questions about the things they do not understand. Dinnertime should be a time to enjoy each other, not a time to battle over not trying foods. As parents, discuss your values and set standards for your children, then be consistent in implementing those standards. Bon appetit!!
Article by Ruth Grunstra
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Hi I'm Ruth
What is the biggest challenge you are facing with your children? My husband and I have 8 children ages 14-32. We've been married 36 years and we are always learning new ways to engage our kids. We would love to hear from you. Contact us and let us know what you have found that works and what doesn't. Or ask me a question.