Picky eaters can seem like the norm these days, but there’s no reason your child has to be one. This month, I offer suggestions to help broaden your family’s culinary horizons. But first, let’s talk about where it all begins: in the high chair, when baby is first exposed to solids. Introducing solids strategically can help your child appreciate a wider variety of foods.
Up until 6 months of age, babies should be exclusively breastfed. If breastfeeding is not an option, then formula is all they need. Other foods can be introduced after 6 months. In general, I suggest giving veggies before fruit. When a child is hungry, they will eat what is presented to them first. The idea is to help them develop a taste for greens; they will come to associate vegetables with the feeling of being full. Pureed veggies like broccoli, green beans, and peas are a good starting point.
As kids get older (approximately ages 2-6), continue presenting vegetables first. For instance, you can serve the salad or a plate of veggies before the main course.
It’s also important to delay the introduction of sweets to prevent kids from developing a sweet tooth. For as long as possible, don’t give your child cookies, ice cream, cake, or soda. They won’t know what they’re missing and, believe me, they will be getting their fill of sweets before long. Once a child has tasted chocolate cake, there’s simply no going back; the humble broccoli doesn’t stand a chance.
If your kids are older and have already rejected vegetables, you may have to “hide” veggies in other foods. Pureed soups, pasta sauces, and muffins make great hidden sources of nutrients for unsuspecting kids.
Even if your child is picky, keep presenting them with foods that you “know” they don’t like. Kids’ tastes change and they often need multiple tries before they start to enjoy the flavor. Find different methods of preparing the food in question. Tell your child that they haven’t tried it this way before and that they might like it. Don’t force them to eat something they don’t like, but keep encouraging them to have a taste.
Another way to persuade kids to become more adventurous with food is to involve them in the kitchen. A child is much more likely to try – and enjoy – a dish if they helped prepare it.
Finally, think of Beijing as a smorgasbord of culinary options. Consider making a family tradition of trying a new restaurant every week. There can be a theme to keep things interesting, a new international cuisine every week, or a different Chinese regional cuisine (for ideas, turn to Features on p46). Bon appétit!
Got a question?
Melissa Rodriguez is a mom of two and a wellness consultant. She also works as a naturopath at International Medical Center. Check out her website at www.drmelissarodriguez.com
photo from Creative Commons user lucianvenutian
This article originally appeared on p26 of the beijingkids January 2014 issue.
Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com