At our house, broccoli is king. And brussels sprouts actually elicit a cheer. We also love (and eat) peppers, kale, cauliflower, all sorts of veggie-based dishes, and think bread only comes in brown. This is no small feat considering I have three boys 12 and under in the house. Eating and getting your kid to eat can be one of the most frustrating parts of being a parent. Why? Because you have to feed your kid at least three times per day, and you want him/her to eat at least quasi-healthfully. So the battle ensues. It doesn’t have to be a war, though, not if you think like a kid when it comes to the traditionally-kid-detested foods.
Think like a kid? How’s that going to help get more phytonutrients into your kid? Here’s some suggestions.
Try foods that other kids like, or that ‘famous’ people eat. Did you know Phineas and Ferb like broccoli because it gives them super powers? Or that watching Curious George consume his bananas and fruits will spark your kids’ interest (and perhaps appetite) for the same foods? Advertisers have been using these subliminal messages for ages, getting you to buy more of their product. Product placement in movies and tv shows is a big big part of advertising; use it to your advantage. Big Bird loves sesame seed anything. After watching him enjoy his sesame-infused snack, perhaps your kid will be more willing to try a bite of that sesame chicken. Don’t watch a lot of tv? You can still make this work for you. If other kids like/try foods, your kid will too. Peer pressure can work for you on this one. This is how I got my kids to try peppers. Now, they even ask for red peppers as a snack.
Rename foods. At our house, we love Flying Saucers and Asteroids (lentils and cauliflower stew), Leopard beans (black beans), and ‘nummy’ hummus. If your kids have an topical interest, rename food in kind. Be it fairyland, princess food, or anything Star Wars, if your kids like the name, they will be more likely to try it.
Ask them to help in the kitchen. You’ve heard it before. If they help create the masterpiece headed for the table, they will be more likely to taste it. My eldest loves to help me in the kitchen. He even brags about it to his classmates. As such, he has tried foods that I never imagined he’d try, such as mussels, calamari and kale chips. The other two follow his good-eating example.
Get input. Let your kids decide what to fix. If you have the ingredients for two different dishes, or two different preparation methods, let them pick which on it’ll be. Naturally, we never have 100% agreement first go-round, but our rule is that they have to reach a compromised agreement and I will do whichever they’ve picked. I don’t do this every night, but often enough to keep the game familiar.
Rules are ‘one bite of everything’. Sometimes, staring down at a full plate of foods can be really overwhelming, especially for kids who are not 100% familiar with the feelings they have in their tummies (i.e. hunger or thirst). We tell them that they must try at least one bite of everything on their plate. There are so many foods out there, and so many different preparation methods. Some foods just don’t look very pretty on a plate. One bite, though, will hopefully lead to more. Kids can sometimes need 20+ different tries of a food before they find it acceptable. Don’t give in to the first ‘No, yucky!’
Relocate the meal. Everything is more fun on a picnic blanket, even if the blanket is spread on the living room floor.
Bon appetite, friends. Hopefully at least one of these suggestions will get one more bite in your kids’ mouth.