Love Chid Organics For Vista Magazine – Most parents know what it is like to cook a delicious meal, only to have their child flat out refuse to even try it or complain their way through dinner. This can be incredibly frustrating and make us feel like there is no point in even bothering to cook from scratch or put new foods on their plate. The fact is that we can’t make our children eat unless they want to, and small children are notoriously wary when it comes to unfamiliar food.

My children neither are perfect eaters by any means nor am I a trained picky eater expert, however, as a mom who is pretty determined to have her children eat a variety of healthy foods, I’ve learned that certain common-sense strategies have made a significant difference to how my children approach food. Here are some of my favourite tips:

  • Even though it can feel wasteful, keep giving kids foods they say they don’t like. Studies show it can take many tries before a food starts to taste familiar and becomes accepted. As for very little ones, know that even if babies scrunch up their little faces and give the impression they don’t like a new food, this doesn’t mean you should stop giving it to them altogether. Take a break from giving it to your baby that day, and then try again the next day and the next. With repetition, unfamiliar and unaccepted foods usually will become foods your baby will enjoy.
  • Including veggies in foods kids like, such as muffins or smoothies, is a great strategy for getting extra nutrients into kids, but don’t be tempted to hide the fact that the veggies are there! Instead, talk them up! When kids realize their favourite smoothie contains spinach, they will be more likely to try spinach in other formats too. This strategy can start early and even with healthy prepared foods that contain vegetables. Love Child Organics fruit and veggie purees have fun illustrations of the fruits and vegetables they contain (grouped together as little families- so sweet!) right on the front of the pouch. Talking about the pictures and choosing their favourites can be a fun way to expose little ones to the notion that they are eating veggies and enjoying them.
  • Now you may balk at this idea, but I’m going to put it out there. At restaurants, avoid children’s menus if you can. It can be quite exciting to order off the children’s menu when you first start going out to restaurants as a family. But most children’s menus are filled with unhealthy options that are usually anything but adventurous. Instead, order meals from the regular menu and ask for extra plates for your kids so they can share with you. This way they don’t come to expect that going to a restaurant means always having chicken nuggets or cheese pizza, and they will be exposed to more grown-up flavours and healthful options. As a bonus, the cost of your meal will likely be much less. Win-win!
  • At home, serve food family style and have the children serve themselves from larger plates in the center of the table. There’s something about dishing the food onto their plates themselves that gives them that sense of control that little ones crave so much, and it seems to make them more likely to eat a variety of foods as well as try new ones.
  • When time and schedule allow, eat with your children (it doesn’t have to be every night and breakfast is just as good as dinner!) I find that if I sit down with my kids at mealtime and engage them in conversation, they eat far more and are more open to trying what I’ve served than if I hover over them while they eat alone at the kitchen counter. Plus, eating together gives me the opportunity to model being an adventurous eater myself. Remember, kids tend to do what we do, not necessarily what we say!
  • Get your children involved in the meal planning and the cooking. When they feel some ownership over what is being served, they will be far more likely to eat it. And when you cook with your kids, don’t always make it about baking. Cook savoury dishes together too, and use the experience of cooking together as encouragement for eating something new.
  • Teach your children where healthy and less familiar ingredients come from. Regularly visit the local farmers market and allow them to pick out a new vegetable to try for dinner. And, if you have space, even try growing some of your own veggies together as a family. If they’ve nurtured a vegetable plant and watched it produce, they will be so much more willing (and probably quite excited!) to see what it tastes like.

For more tips like these plus plenty of recipes that everyone in the family will love, check out my new cookbook, It All Begins with Food, available at your local or online bookseller.