Each family is different and functions in its own way. All rules, all tips, don't apply to all. Children are different. Some are incredibly stubborn, strong-minded, some have certain food-related conditions, while some simply lack exposure to diversity, and then there are those who will eat everything, everywhere, anytime (my youngest used to be like that). What I'm about to share, worked for us. Although to be fair, there were times, when I wanted to give up. In those situations I reached out, to those I look up to. Perseverance paid off!
At our Family Nutrition Workshops, we break some myths and show parents what can be done, to encourage our young ones to go for more veg than usual. There's something about a positive, stress-free environment, where the parents are asked to step aside, and the kiddos are invited to take the lead. Eventually, even the most resilient ones give in, and try something. Now, combine all this with some super-hero names, and a few options to choose from, and it's a win!
When talking to parents, they are informed of the rules of the game - they can not mention what their babes like or dislike. Statements like "Oh, he'll NEVER eats peas!" are just not allowed. I've witnessed situations like this, where the negative parent would comment, as the child would show a willingness to try. Try! Not gulp it all down, just try! And for some children, that's a huge step forward!
Our Family Nutrition Workshops cover more in depth, but for this short blog, let's reveal some simple steps and the reasoning behind those steps.
1. EAT, or at least try to have some - you can not expect your child to eat the food you made if you don't have it.
2. TALK about it!
You can talk about what's on the plate and share your opinion. Explain to them what vegetables on the plate are your favorite, and which ones you eat because they're really good for you. Remind them how much they liked a certain puree as a baby, and how much mess they made while eating it!
Do you have any photos/videos of them eating? My oldest son doesn't like spinach, but his first baby food was, in fact, spinach puree. He giggles looking at those pics and videos, and he doesn't object if I use some spinach in our meals.
3. ENCOURAGE and SET EXPECTATIONS
It's not something to argue about, it's also not a competition, nor a power struggle. It's simply doing what's right. A simple "We're having some brussels sprouts that daddy asked for. I will put only a few on your plate, and I expect you to eat them. If you finish them all, you may have a few more." , will do. Simples, right? No? You're right, sometimes it's not. Take a deep breath, calm down and know it's a journey. "I've noticed a lot of the kids in your school don't eat too healthy. I don't mind that school serves the food kids will love, but at home, we will try to have some more healthy options. Would you help me find the ones that are the tastiest?"
If you're meant to run this family, that also means you're meant to set the rules. In our house, I take full charge of the nutrition. I accept suggestions and allow flexibility, but I do not negotiate once the food is on the table. Kind of like when they need to wear the seat belts in the car.
What did you do, when you first started introducing purees and solids? Did you give up after the first time they rejected broccoli? Or, did you follow the guideline which advises offering a specific fruit or veg at a minimum of 8-12 times, so the baby's taste buds can get accustomed to the new flavors?
Do you ever visit local farms, farmer's markets and shops with plenty of fresh produce? If this becomes a regular thing for your family, I can promise, you will notice some positive changes soon!
Buying treats in the shops is not an option for us. Instead, after they've behaved in the shop, they can pick a fruit from the 'kid's basket'. (Not all shops provide fruit treat for kids, but we had one in the UK and found one now in the US).
5. Last, but not least, let's not forget about available LOCAL and SEASONAL produce. It may happen that your baby loved the zucchinis last summer, but this year, your toddler is throwing a fit! It's normal. Sometimes they forget they liked something, and perhaps this season they won't like them but will be willing to try them again next year. Reintroducing foods is not an unusual approach. However, it does bring us back to points 1, 2, 3 and 4.
You will notice gradual changes, they will be small steps which should be acknowledged!
The sooner you start, the better.
Make it fun.
Involve their little friends (real, toys, whatever works for you best!).