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The number one complaint I hear from parents is that their child is picky and won’t eat anything except macaroni and cheese, pizza or chicken nuggets. When I ask about fruits and vegetables, they tell me they only like certain ones. Then I ask, “Have you ever tried feeding them a sweet, ripe mango or other fruit that may not be on their list?” Most often they answer “No”.
As I watch the parent and child interact, I give a few suggestions of different foods to eat, sometimes even offering a new food to the child who is reaching out with big eyes and a smile on their mouths. I get a quick reaction from the parent, however, “Oh, they don’t like that.” Then the child recoils and the moment of discovery is gone.
Maybe it isn’t the child who is picky.
Children are pre-programmed to like sweet foods and this obsession with sweets continues throughout adult life. Mother’s milk is sweet, as is fruit. We were designed to eat a lot of fruit but instead, we eat sugary candy that looks and tastes like fruit. Why not just eat what nature provides us in their own little packages that we can peel and eat on the go?
FIVE WAYS TO MAKE FOOD COME ALIVE
If you have a picky eater, here are some great suggestions to help you navigate through meal times:
1. Start with ripe, colorful fruit. Put a bowl or tray of a variety of cut up fruit on the table and let them enjoy as much of it as they’d like. This digests the fastest so eating it first will help digestion later in the meal.
2. For a second course enjoy a salad or vegetable tray with more bright colors that draw in even the pickiest eaters. A nice dip is helpful too but not always necessary. See if you can get them to like the food in its natural state and make sure you are eating plenty of the fruits and vegetables as well.
3. Put a small amount of a main dish on the table using it more as a side dish. If your family is used to eating meat at every meal, reduce the amount of meat they consume by adding more vegetables, beans, rice or potatoes or a combination of these plant-based foods.
4. Watch your words. How are you speaking to your child about food? Are you encouraging them to try new things or do you side with them when they shoot it down? It takes up to twelve times for them to be introduced to something new and learn to like it, so keep trying and encourage them along the way.
5. Get your children involved in preparing the food. The more they help in the kitchen, the more they will want to eat what they make. This is a great way to bond with them and make some fun memories too.
Be a good example to your children. They watch what you are eating and how you talk about food. If you have a poor relationship with food, blaming it for your weight or resenting having to make meals for your family, they feel it.
I teach Little Chef Summer Camps to children ages six to sixteen. Introducing them to new foods and ways of preparing it has been a fun adventure. I educate them first about nutrition and the power of plants as medicine. We talk about what foods are good for us and that we need to eat more plant-based uncooked fruits, vegetables, sprouted nuts and seeds. As we prepare things like donuts using plums and make a delicious jelly filling and colorful sprinkles out of citrus peels, they love the bright colors and the sweet flavors these make. Most of the children love the majority of what we make and they go home excited to share what they have learned. We have a rule that everyone has to try one bite of everything.
One student was skeptical of everything we made and she let me know it with a sour face. But as she ate her first bite, her frown turned into a big smile as she exclaimed, “I like this!” It was fun to see her do this week after week until she finally expected to like each dish we made.
Wendy is a certified Chef, Raw Food Coach, Master Herbalist and a wife and mother of four. She is passionate about plants and their amazing nutritional and medicinal powers. She is from Eagle Mountain and enjoys teaching classes, speaking at events, and sharing her message of health on TV and in printed media. She is the author of “7 Days of Raw Food”, and her “1 Day Raw Challenge” found at RawChefWendy.com