Photo from healthtipsinurduformanpics.blogspot.com
One of the most important things my husband and I did as parents is instill in our children a love and appreciation for all types of food. From day one, it has been part and parcel of our consciousness to teach our kids the wonders of different tastes and textures - whether familiar or downright unconventional. We wanted to teach them to appreciate healthy and nutritious foods and also give them the opportunity to be adventurous eaters, even if that means allowing junk food or clean ‘street food’ every once in a while. To us, it was one very important way to broaden our children’s horizons in understanding and appreciating other people and cultures - through their food.
One of the biggest problems many parents face is dealing with their children who are picky eaters. It is a tiring ordeal to have to battle over food and find ways and means to serve healthy and nutritious food that their children will appreciate and enjoy - or even taste! Sadly, many parents fail to realize soon enough that they have a hand in raising their picky children to be like this. Although it would be ideal to teach children to be good eaters from day one, it is not a lost cause to try to make changes no matter what their age.
Here are some of the principles to raising good eaters.
1. It’s just a taste. Parents need to teach their children that tastes and textures in food are different and they should be appreciated as such. There really is no good or bad taste if one thinks about it. Sweet, bitter, spicy, salty - these are all just qualities of food that make them unique.
Parents should be conscious about labeling food to be good or bad as well. For example, just because something is spicy does not make it bad or inappropriate for children, right? I mean, kids from other countries and cultures are given spicy food from the time they are introduced solids.
2. There are ‘adult’ foods and ‘kiddie’ foods, and kids are too young to be exposed to many types of food. –WRONG! From the time children are physically able to tolerate and digest the food, and apart from any medical reason for avoiding it, giving your kids the opportunity to at least taste different foods will help in raising good eaters. Kids that are exposed to foods other than those that are ‘kid friendly’ learn to appreciate and like other more complex tastes and textures. Let children taste salads, vegetable stews, ginisang ampalaya or even curries. Slowly let the child adjust to the healthy menu served in your family instead of making a separate dish just for him. Your children will slowly learn the unique tastes your family, as a whole, appreciates; and as a plus, you just have to worry about making one menu instead of two!
3. Caregivers are the best models. Be conscious about how you and the child’s caregivers react to different food. Usually, kids model the behaviors and preferences of the people they look up to. Be careful also about making judgments about food - kids are like sponges and mirror what they see. Without realizing it or meaning to do so, you may be limiting the food that your children could potentially appreciate and enjoy.
4. Taste first before saying ‘No’. This is a rule that we have at home since we understand that each one has his own preferences and no one can really like everything. What is important for us though is that our kids have the opportunity to taste the food (maybe 3-5 bites) and then decide. This rule also applies to the grown-ups at home. Believe me, there has been many a time when our son called us out on this rule when he noticed we are not eating a particular food or viand!
Raising good eaters does not mean raising kids that eat everything. The goal is to raise kids who enjoy healthy and diverse food choices and to give them the opportunity to discover and have a healthy attitude towards food.
My son who was given ampalaya from when he was a baby only recently said after a few bites “Mama, no thank you, please. I liked it before but not so much anymore now…maybe when I’m bigger again”. That, to me, tells me that I am still on the right track.