“How did I raise my kids to like vegetables? How did you make them try new foods? I hear these questions at least once weekly, professionally as a registered dietitian, and as a mother.
My proud mom side takes a minute to smile and feel good! After all it is no easy task. We are all so busy that convenience and time-saving are qualities we look for when feeding our children. For me it started when my kids were just babies, with my nutrition background I had a few advantages. Today I combine my experience as a mother and registered dietitian to offer tips and suggestions so that you can have your proud moment too! There is nothing more rewarding than grocery shopping with my kids (which you remember is not my favorite thing to do) in the fruits and vegetables side of the store and hear them beg for broccoli and snow peas.
For brand new mommies I say: start from the beginning. Your baby should have an exclusively breastmilk or formula diet until 6 months of age. Then start with vegetables instead of cereals or fruit, preferably green veggies like peas or green beans. This is when you build a “taste base” for years to come by familiarizing their palates with as many flavors as possible. After vegetables, serve a variety of no added sugar fruits and cereals. Make your own, or choose the ones that have as ingredients the fruit and only and maybe some vitamin C as the preservative. No need to stick to just rice cereal, apples and bananas; venture out to barley, quinoa, avocados or coconut. Avoid refined sugar as much as possible. It has such a powerful impact on our taste buds it can make the naturally sweet taste of fresh fruits disappear. The same goes for salt; there’s no need to add it to fresh food. Use herbs and spices to add flavor. Kids who start off appreciating the natural taste of fruits and vegetables grow into adults who will crave less sugar and salt.
The good news is it’s never too late! At any age encourage your children to participate in grocery shopping, cooking, and setting the table. Give them some control of what you’ll make for a meal; let them feel included in the decision process. Vegetables, whether raw or cooked, can be a challenge. Spark your kids’ interest by telling them where it grows (or helping them grow some of their own!) Let them smell it, touch it (yes, play with it) and taste it! Children are much more likely to try a food after they help prepare it! We recently started a new family tradition of cooking together once a week. My kids look forward to helping out in the kitchen, dicing, mixing, measuring and the final presentation says it all! The more colors on the plate the more attractive it is. After all, plates filled with only brown, beige and white foods are boring. Be sure to add some naturally sourced color! It doesn’t have to be fancy, but how you plate it can make all the difference. My kids love garnishing our dinner plates with fresh basil and mint leaves; they feel like “real chefs.”
We know kids will try new foods, especially if they smell good. (90 percent of why we choose to put a food in our mouth is based on whether it smells good or not.) At Kid Kritics Taste Test, we see this happen all the time. Moms come running in and ask what we did to motivate their son or daughter to eat broccoli or other vegetables. Something about the way it looked and smelled opened their minds to taking a bite. It also helps when their friend dives in and says they love it!
We have a recipe tab on our website with hundreds of recipes that have been taste tested and approved by kids, it is hard to pick a favorite, but here are the links to three that are easy to get you started in the kitchen with your kids:
… for the health of your family,