Have you ever noticed the way children aren’t exactly keen to try new foods? (OK, not talking about new sweets here…let’s say they’re not keen to try new healthy foods!) Shall we say they’re quite ‘new resistant’! You diligently spend all afternoon cooking some new and exciting meal. You sit down for dinner…TADA…you present your delicious work of art. You KNOW they’ll like it, it’s got all their favourite ingredients in! BUT what happens? They turn up their noses and push away their plates to a chorus of “yuck” and “I don’t like it!” “You haven’t even tried it!” you want to cry.
It doesn’t matter. It’s new. Kids don’t do new. They don’t like new. It’s strange. It’s bizarre….It’s UNKNOWN!
So parents stick to old familiars that they know (or hope) their kids will eat.
Shall I tell you a secret? Children can learn to like new things. It just takes time. It takes time for something to go from ‘strange and unfamiliar’ to ‘known and tasty’. It will happen and if you keep at it, the list of accepted food will get longer and longer.
You know how you’ve always been told not to play with your food? Well, actually, it can be a good idea. OK, perhaps not like my 2 year old who always puts her dinner in her drink, stirs it and presents it to one of her brothers. Or throws it on the floor, on the walls, on the ceiling. I don’t mean playing with it like that. I mean playing with it at a different time, not when you’re supposed to be eating it.
I mean playing with food in a way that there is no pressure to eat it. It can be a great way to get kids more familiar with strange and unknown foods. Look at it as the first step on the ‘getting to know you ladder’.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
Buy a vegetable that your kids don’t normally eat…cabbage, aubergine, broccoli. Whatever you like.
- Explore it. Describe it. Draw or paint a picture of it
- Make it in play doh.
- Go to the vegetable aisle of the supermarket (or the market) and try to find an alphabet of fruit and vegetables.
- Find some pictures of fruit and vegetables. Cut them out and arrange them into colours. Make a vegetable collage.
- Let your children arrange them on a plate to make pictures..peas for eyes, carrot sticks for hair, red peppers for lips.
You can do whatever you like. The idea isn’t to eat it. It’s to get used to it so that the food becomes more familiar. Even when the food is ‘more familiar’ it doesn’t mean they they are definitely going to eat it the first time they’re given it but they are more likely to!
If they don’t like it, don’t worry. Don’t force them to eat it. Allow them to reject it. Allow them to spit it out if they really don’t like it. Don’t force them to swallow it (they’re never going to try anything new ever again if you do.) Present it another day. It can take 10 – 15 times of trying something new to decide if you like it or not. (In the meantime, the default is ‘not like!’)
Keep at it. Keep at it. Keep at it!
I know it’s not easy but nor is learning to read or write or ride a bicycle. Healthy eating is just the same, you need to learn how to do it. And it’s just as important.
Dr Orlena Kerek
I am Dr Orlena Kerek, a paediatric doctor, mother of 4 small children and author of SnottyNoses. I write about kids health and trying to help them eat healthily…I know it’s much easier said than done. But it’s definitely worth doing. I offer a free guide to help children love their veggies. (Or should I say to stop parents loosing their mind whilst trying to feed them veggies!)
Thanks to Orlena for sharing this post with us today. Orlena is a fellow member of the Kid Blogger Network and if you need any tips on kids health issues, particularly on healthy eating then you should definitely subscribe and check out her blog 🙂