Does your family have a picky eater?
Growing up, I was lucky to have been a serious child; I say this because of my dietary intake with a severe food allergy and how I live now at the age of 30. You're thinking, what a strange thing to say, right? I promise you'll understand shortly! Way back when, around 7 years old, I remember being told doctors had never experienced the severity of my allergy to lactose and milk protein. Little did I know how life altering that would be! I always knew something was off, but never thought that would've been it! So growing up with my mom being a chef, everything was homemade and healthy, my eating habits although not the norm, became increasing healthier. I've always loved fruits and vegetables, enjoyed delicacies, but what are the odds of a child genuinely enjoying escargot or liver pate? You said it, very slim! Spending time with my Nonnie, 80 something year old grandmother, also rubbed off on me. Whichever the case, I was once a very rare bred child, but thankfully today's children have access to a multitude of alternatives and healthy food items, yet parents still seem to struggle with children adapting to healthier food acceptance. I have made it my mission to not only help end childhood obesity, but I will strive to educate parents on how to make eating healthier fun and enjoyable for their children and the entire family.
Did you know children are exposed to taste as early as in the womb? Taste and smell are actually transmitted via amniotic fluid. Even the learned preferences in pregnancy and early childhood influence adulthood which in turn shows a direct relationship between our dietary intake and flavor programming. How your child perceives food, begins with what you as a parent consume while carrying. During infancy and early adolescence sensory acceptance learning is highest, so you'll want to introduce new healthy foods regularly. Once a child's palate has developed, the probability of he or she leading a healthier lifestyle for a lifetime is rather high. Children in general are born into a society that predisposes them to the unhealthy habit of overeating. The more exposure a child is given to new foods, the better conditioned they'll be to accepting new things.
Always encourage healthy eating! Limit exposure to processed foods, but increase exposure to farmers markets and introduce gardening as a fun new activity. A small kitchen garden not only provides fresh produce, but also involves little ones and encourages them to eat fresh produce! Participating to grow, harvest, and cook plants they've grown themselves creates excitement while increasing the willingness to eat healthier too! Exposing children visually to produce also sparks great interest in healthier choices. Allow your child to help prepare meals to have the sense of ownership toward foods. Rather than bombarding children with an entirely new item or taste, use a familiar flavor or ingredient with one or two new foods or tastes to increase the likelihood of acceptance. Giving our little ones choices is always best! For this reason alone, don't combine or mix foods so they're able to pick and choose themselves.
For meals, sit down with children as a family to create the best atmosphere socially and educationally. Have a positive demeanor and reaction to healthier foods like fruits and vegetables you want your children to eat. The type of parent and peer role modeling have been proven to increase a child's willingness to eat new different foods. Make healthier food options readily available, cut fruit up, prepare vegetables as ready to eat for easy grab and go access. Hiding vegetables in foods like smoothies or baked goods is less than ideal for long term, but it does help with younger stubborn children until they begin to accept the real deal. There is a very strong link between cooking and nature. The idea of eating foods that grow locally and naturally will create the ideal cycle from harvesting to consumption. If we can successfully teach our little ones the basics of eating better and making healthier choices we will have created an optimum design of wellness for life.
So you ask, what are the takeaways from this?
-Have children more involved with cooking, visits to farmers markets, & allow them to chose healthier foods themselves.
-Let children participate, as easy as mixing foods together.
-Surround & expose children to positive role models; if you eat healthy, your child will follow. Set the example!
-Eat together, for every meal have sit down family time.
-Include fresh cut up fruits and/or vegetables in lunch boxes daily.
-Grow a garden; grow, pick, use harvested food to cook.
-Fruits often work better than vegetables with children, clearly because of the appeasing sweetness.