Taste buds do change.
Toddlers and young children have more taste buds than adults (they decrease as we age). Children can taste the bitter, spicy and salty in foods that a parent may not which means that spinach and broccoli may taste bitter to a child.
Allow children to take part in food preparations.
Apart from touching a hot stove, boiling water or sharp knives there are many ways that children can be helpful in the kitchen. Allowing children to take part in meal preparation is an important step in getting them to try new foods.
“Researchers have found that children who take part in the cooking of their food eat those foods and ask for seconds”.
When children are pressured to take at least one bite or offered rewards if they take a bite – this is not always the best strategy. Initially the child may eat the food to receive the reward but they will be less likely to eat those foods in the long run. Make these foods just part of the meal and let your child see you enjoying them. Staying neutral to our children's likes and dislikes for food is important for their personal decision making growth.
In one study at Pennsylvania State University, researchers asked children to eat vegetables offering them stickers and television time if they did. Later in the study, the children expressed dislike for the foods they had been rewarded for eating.
Parents sometimes feel that if treats are kept out of sight then children will make healthier choices. The first thing is not to have too many treats in the house for everyone’s sake. A large body of research shows that if a parent restricts a food, children just want it more. The key is to fill your fridge and cupboards with healthy food choices easy to access and eat. Cut up vegetables and keep in clear bowls in the fridge at a child’s eye level and keep fruit on the counter. Allow for “treats” once in a while so that treats remain treats!
Serve vegetables in different ways.
Serving plain vegetables can be boring for all of us. Try adding organic butter, coconut butter, Himalayan salt, sweet spices like cinnamon, organic cheeses, brewer’s yeast or small amounts of maple syrup or raw honey can go a long way. So does cooking a variety of vegetables so that everyone can pick and choose what they prefer. Adding a healthy fat to raw or heated vegetables helps to not only unlock their fat-soluble nutrients for health but can help diminish the bitter flavours that children are sensitive to.
Don't become a short-order cook.
Stay away from the exhausting trap of being a short-order cook for your picky eaters. This can send the wrong message. Ask children to help you make lists of healthy foods that they enjoy even if this list continues to change. Attempt to plan meals with at least one item you know they enjoy. If a child chooses not to eat all foods presented then they won’t go hungry and you don’t have to prepare another meal. Children are more likely to partake in a meal if they helped plan or prepare it.
Talk about food in a healthy way and avoid talking about dieting in front of your children.
Our children watch us like hawks and they watch how, what and when we eat. Children are far more likely to try new foods if they see mom, dad, grandparents or siblings eating them. Parents who are always talking about dieting and trying new diets to lose weight can have a negative influence a child’s perceptions about food and healthful eating habits. Making food fun and enjoyable is very helpful.
Be patient and don't give up - it will all be worth it in the long run.
Both children’s and adult’s taste preferences can change throughout life. Be patient and keep making healthy choices for everyone’s sake. It can take over 10+ attempts for a child to try something new but the more relaxed you are as the adult, the better. There are many things to argue about but food should not be one of them. Eating in a relaxed manner is important because when we are stressed our digestion slows down and we may not be able to digest, absorb and assimilate nutrients.
Parents may feel that their child will never eat certain foods but taste buds change and food preferences change also.
Where can I get more information?
Feel free to contact our Nutritional Expert, Shawn M. Nisbet (Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Certified Fitness Consultant, Yoga Teacher and Master Nordic Pole Walking Instructor).
Stay tuned for monthly tips from Shawn on our blog!