My children, like all children, go through food jags. In other words, they will refuse to eat something you want them to eat and feel they should eat. To learn more about food jag battles, read my article on Tips for the Picky Eater where I provide specific suggestions with various food groups. In my situation, my son has refused eggs. He has not eaten an egg in over 6 months despite my continual efforts. This is how I got him to eat eggs again.
Here are four simple steps that can be adapted to most situations with a great imagination.
Step 1: Obtain Healthy Food.
Secured local free range pastured eggs that are full of Vitamin A, Vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, choline and protein. Thank you Allison! I love the color of the free range egg. They are blue, brown, tan and white. Not to mention they all vary in size and shape!
Step 2: Re-introduction!
I introduced the eggs to my son away from the kitchen. I put them on the floor and we discussed their shape, texture, delicate nature, and color. I then told him he could crack them (talk about an attention grabber)! To learn more about how to introduce foods to your child, read my article on Infant Meet Veggie; Veggie Meet Infant.
Step 3: Include.
Allowing the child to assist in the kitchen is a vital step in healthy eating behavior. In this case, my two year old cracked the eggs and mixed them with milk. If you are interested in more information on including your children in the kitchen, read my article on Age Appropriate Kitchen Tasks for Children
Step 4: Eat in Peace Together!
Eating as a family is a lost art (along with cooking) in our society. Studies have shown that families who eat together live healthier and happier lives. Another critical step in the feeding relationship is allowing the child to eat and taste food on their terms. It is not my job to persuade them to eat through bribes, rewards or punishment. They will eat- trust me! We just need to give them the power of choice. To learn more about no pressure eating, read Let Your Child Say No So They Will Say YES!
He loved them and it was peaceful.
Does your child refuse to eat specific food groups such as meat, dairy, or vegetables?
As children begin join their family at the table and increase the variety of food consumed; they also begin to imitate the guardian’s food behaviors and habits. A conflict may arise between what the child desires and what the parents considers an appropriate food choice or quantity. This conflict can cause the guardian to label the child as picky or finicky. Behaviors associated with these labels involve avoidance of foods or entire groups of foods.[i] Picky eating might be more representative of acquiring new independence rather than a declaration of actual likes and dislikes.[ii]
As with most behaviors, the child’s stage of development can influence food choices. For example, a toddler may prefer finger foods that encourage them to demonstrate their new independence[iii] or an older child, who helps with meal preparation, may eat what they cook because a child will often taste what he or she has prepared.
Children often refuse a new food simply because it is unfamiliar to them but do not let the discourage you. It can take up to 10 exposures of a new food before a child accepts it.[iv] However, most caregivers try a new food on average of 2.5 times before deciding the child actually dislikes the food.[v] It is important to introduce one food at a time to avoid confusion. Consistency with each new food, offering it at least once per day, helps the child to develop a familiarity with that specific food item. Offering new foods more frequently throughout the day will increases a child’s daily intake.[vi] Not only exposure to new foods but also the opportunity to taste a food enhances food acceptance.[vii]
Here are specific tips for increasing nutrition for the picky eater:
Tips for the Picky Meat Eater:
- Offer egg, beans, cheese and iron fortified cereal as a substitute to ensure iron intake.
- Cut meat differently (long thin strips) to make it easier for the child to eat as finger food.
- Cook and serve juicy tender dark meat of poultry.
- Offer leafy greens for additional iron. Bake kale chips or puree kale/spinach into sauces, soups, casseroles, omelets, etc.
- Add beans, finely shredded meat and poultry into casseroles, sauce, soups, pizza, tacos.
- Add House of Herbs Blackstrap Molasses (70% RDA of Iron to oatmeal, syrups, etc. for added iron.
- Offer seeds and nuts as snacks or grind up into baked goods.
Tips for the Picky Milk Eater:
- Offer cheese and yogurts as snack.
- Add vitamin D drops to food or beverages.
- Add evaporated milk to smoothies.
- Use milk instead of water when cooking hot cereals, pudding, etc.
- Add evaporated milk to casseroles, bake goods, hot cereals, pudding, etc.
- Let your child drink the milk from a straw.
- Offer almonds, broccoli, kale, pinto beans, okra, and fortified orange juice as great calcium substitutes.
Tips for the Vegetable and Fruit Striker:
- If your child refuses veggies, give more fruit. If your child refuses fruit, give more veggies.
- Cut the veggies and fruit in different shapes.
- Substitute pureed carrots, butternut squash, pumpkin, applesauce to baked goods for oil.
- Add pureed veggies to casseroles, baked goods, soups and sauces but still serve the vegetable as a side dish.
- Let your child eat frozen fruit and veggies (don’t defrost them but make sure they are not a choking hazard- over 3 years of age)
- Puree fruit (mango, berries, and banana) and thin with 100% juice make homemade popsicles.
- Make kid theme gardens (pizza garden, taco garden, etc.) To learn how, click here.
- Let your child play with their vegetables. Read my article called, Infant Meet Vegetable, Vegetable Meet Infant.
General Nutrition Tips:
- Offer the foods they strike at the time they are most hungry.
- Concentrate on table manners and not what they are eating.
- Don’t make food the center of the conversation at the meal.
- Keep your meals on a schedule.
- Always provide a favorite food with a new food.
- Do not use food as a reward.
- Do not become a short order cook.
- Do not snack within an hour of the meal.
- Limit juice consumption.
- Let the child decide what and how much he or she will eat.
- Trust your child to know his or her hunger level.
- Let children help with meal planning and preparation.
If you would like to follow Clancy Cash Harrison, MS, RD, LDN on FB, please click here.
[i] Birch LL, Johnston SL, Fisher JA: Children’s eating: The development of food-acceptance patterns. Young Children 50: 71–78, 1995
[ii] Pelcaht, M.L., & Pliner, P. (1986). Antecedents and correlates of feeding problems in young children. Journal of Nutrition Education, 18, 23-29.
[iii] Fisher, J.O., & Birch, L.L. (1999). Restricting access to palatable foods affects children’s behavioral response, food selection and intake. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 69, 1264-1272.
[iv] Sullivan, S.A., & Birth, L.L. (1993). Infant dietary experience and acceptance of solid foods. Pediatrics, 93, 271-278.
[v] Carruth, B.R., Skinner, J., Houch, K., Moran, J., Coletta, F., & Ott, D. (1998). The phenomenon of “picky eater”: A behavioral marker in eating patterns of toddlers. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 17, 180-186.
[vi] Dennison, B.A., Rockwell, H.L., & Baker, S.L. (1998). Fruit and vegetable intake in young children. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 17, 371-378.
[vii] Birch LL: Effects of peer models’ food choices and eating behaviors on preschoolers’ food preferences. Child Develop 51: 489–496, 1980
Let’s get back to the basics and move into the kitchen for some family fun! Stop the drive thru craze and prepare healthy meals with your kids. Cooking has become a lost art for most families because of busy schedules. Including your children in family meal planning and preparation has great benefits. However, it may feel harder than it is really worth. If your child is little, you might worry he or she could get hurt or make a big mess. If your child is older, they might push back with attitude or not want to spend time with mom or dad.
There is good news! If you teach your children culinary skills while they are young, they will be more willing to help in the kitchen when they are older. Children are also more likely to eat the foods they prepare which helps build a strong foundation for a healthy lifestyle. Turning off the TV and spending time in the kitchen opens the door for communication and learning. Have fun and get back into the kitchen!
You will be surprised what your children will do, even a 2-year-old! Set them up for success with age appropriate tasks and look out! Kitchen fun is a great way to help your children develop healthy eating habits, motor skills, and social skills. Working next to your child also gives you the time to talk about healthy foods. What can they do??
Age-appropriate cooking activities with supervision:
Ages 2-4 years of age
- Peel oranges, clementines, or hard-boiled eggs
- Wipe tabletops
- Pick fresh herbs
- Wrap potatoes in foil for baking
- Knead and shape dough
- Pour liquids
- Shake liquids in a covered container
- Apply soft spreads
- Mash potatoes with manual masher
- Mash banana with a fork (great substitute for oil in baking!)
- Wash fruits and vegetables
- Break cauliflower and broccoli
- Bring ingredients from one place to another
- Put napkins/silverware on table
- Peel fruit/veggies (corn on the cob)
- Stir dry ingredients together
- Tear the leaves off of kale and other leafy greens
- Fill measuring cups and spoons with ingredients
- Shell beans
- Name and count food
- Peel prepared cooled tomatoes for canning
- Take grapes off of bunches
- Peel fresh garlic
- Putting ingredients into the blender for salad dressings and smoothies
- Tearing lettuce for salads
- Shape meatballs
5-10 years of age
- Toss Salads
- Measure ingredients
- Make sandwiches
- Classify foods
- Cut veggies or fruit with a plastic (supervised)
- Crack eggs
- Coat meats with dry rubs
- Cut kale and other greens (supervised)
- Wash produce
- Set the table
11 years and above
This is the age that most kids can start cooking simple meals with appropriate supervision. Some easy meal ideas include:
- Learn about nutrition concepts
- Math skills
- Understands kitchen safety rules
- Scrambled eggs
- Burritos and tacos
- Tossed salads
- Pasta with veggies and sauce
- English muffin pizza
Let’s teach our children to be culinary enthusiasts and empower them to be confident in the kitchen. Passing up the drive thru mania and going back to the basics will help your family grow strong! If you would like to follow Clancy Cash Harrison, MS, RD, LDN on FB, please click here.