Finding and preparing foods that children will eat is a challenge most parents can relate to. Typically, parents complain that their preschoolers will eat only certain items, for example, pasta, milk, and cookies, refusing everything else even if it means going hungry. How do you make your child eat a more varied diet?
Here are a few facts about child behaviour; understanding them could go a long way toward helping you overcome your frustrations and devise appropriate strategies to help your child eat a more balanced diet.
Children don’t yield to pressure
You have heard the saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” The same applies to children. Your job is to serve a variety of healthy foods to your child, not make him/her eat. If you try to force you’ll lose. Children are very creative when it comes to refusing food items they detest; they might even pretend to choke or throw up.
Offering rewards to children is counterproductive in the long run
Offering your child dessert in exchange for eating vegetables can have two undesirable consequences: First, he does something he dislikes, and he might carry this negative experience right into adulthood. Second, he comes to view dessert as something to be highly prized. So, as your child grows up he is more likely to continue to show a dislike for vegetables and a preference for desserts than he might be likely to show had you not offered the bargain.
Children view their parents as role models
Children’s food preferences are strongly influenced by those of their parents. Your child is highly likely to grow up with preferences for food similar to yours. If you want your child to eat vegetables, show her that you enjoy vegetables. If you are frequently on fad diets, your child is also likely to try them in adulthood. The cause of an eating disorder is often a parent who is perennially on a diet.
Children too have taste buds
Don’t expect your child to adore steamed vegetables; even many adults find them unappealing. Don’t hesitate to dress them up with a little bit of butter or sauce. Most children prefer fruits to veggies; let them have unrestricted access to fruits.
If children are involved in preparing food they are more likely to eat it
For safety reasons, many parents make the kitchen a no-go zone for their children, but research shows that when children are involved in the preparation of food they are more likely to try it. You can let children participate in food preparation without endangering them when you are doing light cooking or preparing a salad or sandwich.
If the food that a child likes is restricted to her, she is likely to want it even more
If your child likes cookies and you restrict the number of cookies she can have, she is likely to binge-eat it at the first opportunity she has. So, either let your child have unrestricted access to cookies or don’t bring cookies into the house in the first place.
Children are slow to accept new foods
Young children are generally apprehensive of trying anything unfamiliar. So, be patient. It may take many attempts over several months before a child accepts food. Continue serving a variety of healthy foods in small amounts even if your child refuses to try. A day would come when your child will surprise you.