5 Simple Rules to Raise an Adventurous Eater
By Clancy Cash Harrison, MS, RDN, FAND.
Children around the world eat a variety of textures and flavors; from vegetables wrapped in nori (seaweed sheets) in Korea, to spiced curries in India, to whale blubber in Alaska. Historically, parents in the United States feed children bland foods that are usually crunchy and white while lacking variety. There’s nothing inherently “wrong” with bland food, but we want to help caregivers raise children to be nutritious and adventurous eaters so that they can develop a healthy relationship with food.
Parents and caregivers spend years teaching children how to read. Once a child learns their letters, they are not immediately expected to read a novel. There is a similar learning experience that applies to teaching a child to be a healthy eater. Teaching Taste is a program that encourages caregivers and parents to invest time and patience while coaching their children to love a variety of nourishing foods by following five simple rules.
1. Focus on the Long-Term Goal
The long-term goal is to raise a child who is eager to try and accept a variety of nourishing foods. Teaching Taste does not concentrate on one specific meal but instead focuses on the long-term goal. If your child refuses broccoli, don’t assume the child is doomed to hate broccoli. Include the child in the decision of eating and ask her how she would prefer the broccoli to be prepared next time.
2. Maintain Consistency
Consistency is key to any aspect of succeeding in parenting or as a nanny. Many parents feel consistency is the hardest thing to maintain. It's so true—it’s easy to lay down a rule and then let it slide when you’re tired or in a hurry. Consistency is one of the main requirements for kids to learn how to predict things including feeding expectations, family meal rules, and mealtime schedules.
4. Curb Your Reactivity
Does your charge’s eating behavior drive you crazy? As the anxiety over a child’s diet increases, so does the focus of healthy eating. Then the pressure tactics begin. When an adult needs their child to eat healthy, they become vulnerable because the child does not have to give their caregivers what they want. This is called free will! Don’t react, but simply continue to enjoy your meal. Your job is to provide food. It is the child’s job to eat, and it is their choice if they decide to eat.
5. Endure the Art of Patience
Parents and caregivers expect children to taste and eat their meals, but unfortunately a child might not even want the food that is on their plate. Food refusal can be attributed to the physical feeding environment such asa cold room, a tall chair, or loud music. Food refusal can also be the result of being pressured to eat something, as well as the appearance, texture, taste, and temperature of the food. A parent or nanny’s ability to practice the re-introductions of the same food will eventually lead to long-term success.
Want to learn how to raise an adventurous eater and minimize dinnertime battles? Let us know your answers in the comments:
1. What is your biggest struggle when feeding your child or charge?
2. What do you want to learn about child nutrition?