When you are excited by food, you make it a point to seek out exotic cuisines and unusual ingredients. You like the interplay between proteins and vegetables. You respect fresh herbs. And, you make a meal an event. But, you can begin to feel trapped when you begin raising children and you hear the horror stories about children who will only eat chicken nuggets or mac and cheese.
Yes, the health of your children is one reason you want them to be excited about a variety of ingredients. They need those nutrients. But, you are probably also motivated by your need for them to be open-minded and to share in your gourmet sensibilities. You want them to be excited about meals, especially the ones you lovingly craft yourself.
There are always going to be a few kids who can’t be coaxed to eat eggplant or beets, and that’s not the end of the world. But, you don’t have to put up with a kid who calls everything green “yucky” or who days things like “I hate spices.” What follows are a few tips to help you foster a tiny gourmet or at least an adventurous one.
Don’t Let Your Kids Dictate What You Cook
Only allow for option A: the meal you are providing. Don’t let your kids come up with options B, C or D. Let them know the food you are providing is all that will be provided and they can eat it or they can choose not to. If they decide it isn’t for them, then they don’t eat. It’s that simple. I cook it; you eat it.
Some children will be as stubborn as possible and they will opt to go without dinner, but they will eventually eat something. And, they might go without dinner on the regular, but it won’t make them ill or cause them to be malnourished.
If this idea scares you, make sure that every meal has one dish that your child likes. Make a dish that is adventurous, but pairs it with some orange or apple slices.
Don’t Think You Must Make Things Bland for Kids to Eat Them
Yes, children’s taste buds are more sensitive than the ones adults are working with. But, that doesn’t mean kids can only eat French fries and carrot sticks dredged in ranch dressing. It’s actually a reason that you should be giving them something flavorful. With their sensitive little palates, children can really appreciate things that taste good.
Of course, there will be some foods that you will assume kids don’t like and you will be right. Really spicy foods might be outside of what a toddler can appreciate. But, there are other ingredients—like olives and garlic—that kids will surprise you and love. My son always loved cheese, and at ten, he was requesting the stinkiest cheeses the dairy counter had on offer.
Related Article: How to Get Kids to Take an Interest in Their Health?
Don’t Discount the Value of Family Mealtime
Try to eat together as regularly as possible. This situates the meal as part of the family’s routine and doesn’t make kids forced into it.
If your kids start to rush through the meal to escape and get back to their phone or to the computer, you can let them go. Some parents tell their older kids they are free to leave the table, but they can’t stay nearby talking to the family or distracting the younger kids. Most of the time, all these children want is attention and they will remain at the table for conversation.
Family meals are also a great time to lead by example. Your enthusiasm over a new vegetable dish or an Indian curry can show them that food is enjoyable, even “weird” food. If your kids grow up seeing this, it’s actually unlikely that they will think of any food as weird.
Dorothy Piemonte is an expert health blogger specializing in behavior problems, addictions, recovery, and treatment such as opiate abuse treatment. You can visit her official website at http://www.addictions.com/.