Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Getting Kids to Eat

4/24/10 Getting Kids to Eat
Originally at http://www.edhat.com/site/tidbit.cfm?nid=30069

By Mike Shinn

One of the most basic habits of living creatures is eating. Still, this can also be one of the most infuriating for parents.

Every child is different and from day to day their food preferences may change. I can remember pleading for advice with friends who had already been through this when our daughter simply rejected any solid foods offered as her teeth came in. But don't despair, there is hope. Because the world of food is new to them, what is out of the question for adults is a world of possibility for the child.

Once the teething began, we found our daughter unwilling to eat much of anything at all. After making the foods that she previously ate in a variety of ways (and even dancing them in front of her for entertainment) she simply refused. A coworker of mine recommended frozen berries. After trying them, frozen blueberries (and now the fresh variety) have become a favorite of my now-not-teething daughter.

One night with the kitchen nearly bare from lack of shopping, I improvised with frozen peas. My daughter took to them and many other small frozen fruits and vegetables in the same way. I must add that it didn't hurt that her favorite shirt featured a Peadoodle cartoon from Lisa Slavid.

When using frozen food hasn't worked, we have also tried and branched away into fresh and cooked foods. Cooking up her vegetables alongside of our meals has become commonplace in the Shinn home. When boiling or steaming doesn't work, I have had to fry her foods to get her to eat them. I use olive oil instead of standard vegetable oil, though. For driving, a favorite snack has become dried fruits - easy to eat for the kids and easy to clean up for the parents.

Now that we have our daughter eating a good variety of foods on a regular basis, we do our best to remain consistent. Our daughter gets a meal very similar to ours each night, just a smaller amount. In the case of her favorite, spaghetti, she's been known to eat as much or more as my wife and I. (See photo.)

She may not particularly like bell peppers yet, but if that's what we're eating, she also gets it on her plate. Not expecting her to eat them, we make sure that she at least tries the food and reward her with foods that she does like. A piece of roast beef will earn her five blueberries. This also keeps her busy while we enjoy our meal.

I have heard of parents having success with using food coloring to change the color of the food to one that their child likes. Also I have heard of parents calling different foods by different names. Strips of zucchini become "green fries," but our daughter has seen through our deceptions in the past.

Minimizing snacking before meals so that they are hungry at meal times seems like a basic concept, but still it works well. When our daughter became more aware in the world, we have done our best to encourage her to pick out the foods at the store or one of the many Farmers Markets. Better still, growing growing their own foods makes them appreciate and become hungry when they were not previously. We also let her prepare prepare food with us when safety and logistics have allowed.

Children need relatively small amounts of each of the food groups compared to adults. It is much easier to encourage a tablespoon at a time when only a few tablespoons are needed for the day's nutrition.

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