Feed veggies first. If your baby grows accustomed to eating mostly sweet flavors early on, she/he is more likely to favor them in the future. It’s common to be tempted to mix veggies with something sweet so baby will eat it, but it’s better to let baby learn to enjoy the pure flavor of vegetables. Introduce veggies before fruits as much as possible, and serve them alone or combined with other veggies or baby cereal.
Switch it up. If your baby dislikes canned baby food peas, try making your own puree from frozen sweet peas or cooked fresh peas. The flavor of fresh is so much better than the bland of canned.
Time it Right. Babies have tiny tummies. Don’t assume that your baby doesn’t like something just because she pushes it away or gets fussy. She may just not be hungry.
Toddlers & Pre-School Age|
Make it bite-sized. These little people love things that are just their size.
>Cut French toast or sandwiches into strips.
>Cut cooked carrots, sweet bell peppers, mangoes, cheese, or melon into bite-sized squares.
>Serve natural ‘finger foods.’ Peeled garbanzo beans, black beans, blueberries, peas, and small cooked broccoli or cauliflower florets are a few snacks that are quick and easy for us, fun and safe for them.
Dip it. Get creative with healthy dips – don’t limit dipping to ketchup and ranch dressing, and don’t limit what’s being dipped to chicken nuggets and fries!!! There are so many options for combining the fun of dipping with healthful eating!
>Dunk French toast sticks in plain yogurt mixed with pumpkin, mango, or banana puree.
>Dip strips of grilled cheese in tomato soup.
>Dip apple slices, berries, or cantaloupe in plain yogurt mixed with a little honey or pure maple syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon.
>Once your child is beyond the risk of choking easily, combine pretzel sticks or baked pita chips with black bean dip, hummus, or Veggie Cream Cheese Dip.
Change the texture. Many times, what kids dislike about a food is the texture, not the flavor. Try serving things in different ways.
>Serve spinach chopped up and cooked into scrambled eggs OR serve whole, uncooked, crispy leaves alone or wrapped around mandarin orange wedges.
>Stir lean ground beef or turkey into your toddler’s dinner instead of serving pureed meat.
>Try shredded raw carrots instead of cooked.
Taste-Test Bite. Serve a small amount of a new food alongside a regular portion of a favorite food. (This works best after your child has reached about 2-1/2 to 3 years of age.) Let him know he has to try just one bite. If he doesn’t like it, he doesn’t have to eat more, but he does have to taste it before being allowed to have any more of the favorite food. He may be surprised to find he really does like that thing he swore he didn’t like! Don’t call a lot of attention to this, just go with it.
Let them help. Kids feel important and special when given choices and tasks they can be successful at.
>At the grocery store, let your children pick what veggie to have with dinner or a new fruit to try with breakfast. If they disagree, have them take turns choosing.
>At home, let them help with cooking by pouring the ingredients you have measured into the bowl or stirring the blueberries into the muffin batter. They will be excited to taste the food they helped to prepare.
Older Kids and Adults|
Most of the tips listed above can easily be used for older kids and grown-ups too, but here are a few more, just for big people!
Let them help. Everyone is more likely to enjoy foods they’ve had a part in choosing or preparing.
>Give your family the choice between 2 or 3 healthy meal options, or let them help create a weekly menu from a list of nutritious recipes.
>Let kids be a part of grocery shopping by choosing a recipe to make or being in charge of dinner once a week, then helping to make the shopping list. At the store, let kids choose fresh fruits and veggies, meats/fish, or healthy snacks.
>In the kitchen, older kids can measure; read recipe instructions; gather needed ingredients; wash produce; peel veggies; scoop seeds from melon; roll dough; mix batter; mash bananas, avocados, or potatoes. Ask what they would like to do to help, then guide them if needed.
>Give your child tasks that are age-appropriate. For example, you wouldn’t give your 5-year-old a knife to slice apples, but your 10-year-old would do well (with supervision).
Ease up. This is something I’m working on myself. Providing only the healthiest meals and snacks every minute of every day for everyone in your house is probably not going to happen – let that be OK. A white bread sandwich at lunch isn’t going to hurt anything if your child eats real oatmeal for breakfast and/or whole grain pasta or brown rice with dinner.
Three Final Tips|
Be a good role model. You don’t have to eat baby food to demonstrate healthy eating.
>Prep some extra finger foods as noted above (cheese, beans, diced veggies) and put them on a salad for yourself.
>Snack on healthy dips with your kids.
>If you have a picky adult in your house, reserve their accepted foods for dinnertime, and use mealtimes that don’t include him/her to your advantage. Breakfast, lunch, and snack times can be packed with the nutritious foods your kids require. (If mom or dad won’t eat it, your kids are likely to pick up on that and follow their lead.)
Master the art of patient persistence. It can take more than a few different exposures to a food before it is accepted. Keep trying. Try it again and again. Try serving the same new food in different ways. You will find a way your family likes. You might even find that you like a food you thought you wouldn’t.
Consistently provide nutritious options. If your child’s favorite is chicken nuggets but he won’t touch green beans, don’t serve these together and expect him to try the green beans! (Unless you give him a small serving of nuggets and get him to try the green beans in exchange for a 2nd small serving.) A strategy that can make mealtime less stressful for everyone is to serve the new veggie alongside a favorite veggie, so that even if the new one is refused, they have the nutrition of the accepted veggie to fall back on.
I hope these tips are helpful for you!
Do you have a great tip or trick that I forgot to mention here? Please SHARE in the COMMENTS section below!