Did you just serve your child a plate of white and beige food? Don’t worry, you are far from alone. Many of us wonder how we got here, because we certainly didn’t eat this way when we were kids. But it’s not the journey to bland, relatively unhealthy foods that really matters. What’s important is getting our kids to eat better. If your child has a limited palette with no signs of budging, here are four ways to help broaden their food horizons.
1. Get Them Involved
Your children may see you eating healthy foods, but that may not provide enough motivation. Find ways that they can participate so the experience is more than a plate of vegetables and “Because I said so.” You may not love taking them to the grocery store (and they may not love going), but having them along presents an opportunity. Guide them to the produce aisle and talk about foods in a way that might intrigue them, like which vitamins different foods contain and the health benefits, i.e. spinach has tons of vitamin A, which can help you see better! At home, invite your child to help prepare the food. Providing opportunities for them to feel more connected to the process can go a long way.
Kids are usually hungry in the late afternoon and we parents can fall into a trap of a) giving them something unhealthy to eat or b) giving them too much. Try giving them something light and healthy, like a bowl of grapes or some hummus and carrots. That way, they’ll have energy for the afternoon and be hungry at mealtime. If they come to the table with an appetite, they might be more open to eating something, even if it’s new.
3. Baby Steps
Don’t place a bowl of raw spinach in front of them and expect them to chow down. All in due time. Serve a meal that they like and add a couple bites of fruit or a vegetable. Kids’ palettes develop over time, so experiment with different foods and add new things piecemeal.
4. Required Eating
Ultimately, let your children know that eating healthy is non-negotiable. Fruits and vegetables should be required at every meal, even if it’s just a couple bites. If carrots or apples are all they’ll do for a while, that’s ok, but don’t get stuck in a rut for too long. Greens are the healthiest – and often the hardest – so make inroads when and where you can.