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Encouraging New Foods

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 21 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Healthy Diet Nutritionist Children

It can be difficult to get your children to eat a well balanced diet. Often, they have a few favourite foods and are a bit stubborn about trying new ones. Learning to enjoy a wide variety of foods is vital for good nutrition, however, so it is important to try to encourage children to be adventurous eaters.

Seek Professional Advice...

Try to learn a bit about childhood nutrition. There are a number of good books on the subject that are well worth a read. In order to help your child choose a healthful variety of foods, it is important that you have realistic goals based on your child's age. Parents often worry that their children, especially the younger ones, do not eat enough. Realistically, though, appropriate child-sized portions are quite small, so the worry is frequently unwarranted. If you have doubts, talk to your child's paediatrician or a paediatric nutritionist about proper portions.

Get Creative...

If you simply place a plate of steamed chicken, brown rice, and peas in front of your child, you are likely to be faced with either a flat out refusal or a child who simply pushes the food around the plate without eating very much. It pays to make mealtime fun and the food appealing so that your child will be willing to at least try what is served. Don't turn mealtimes into a battleground. Require that everyone try everything that is served, but do not insist that they clean their plates.

Healthy foods can be fun. Kids will be more willing to try new foods if you let them "play" a bit with their food. I am not talking about allowing children to misbehave at the table or throw food about, simply incorporating a child's natural instinct to play and create into meal presentation. Serve whole grain pancakes and allow children to create silly faces on them using a variety of sliced fresh fruit. Encourage veggie consumption by creating plates with broccoli "trees" and mashed potato "mountains."

Make every effort not to have food selections turn into a battle of wills. When your child goes through stages where she wants to eat only one or two things (as happens with most children), do not allow it to become a major conflict. Simply offer her the desired items in very small portions along with your regular meal. Be sure that you do not give your child enough of their current favourites to fill their belly, that way they will still be hungry and will be likely to eat the other foods that you have served, as well.

Enlist Their Help...

Planting a garden is a wonderful way to encourage children to get interested in new, healthful foods. Allow your child to help you choose what vegetables to plant, sow the seeds, and tend to growing vegetables. Include current favourites and a few that are unfamiliar. If you don't have a lot of yard space, windowsill planters will do. Kids are much more likely to be excited about veggies if they've been a part of growing them. Let them nibble the vegetables raw, both with and without low-fat yogurt dip.

Another good idea is to enlist your child's help in the kitchen. Even young children can help stir, measure, and serve simple foods. Scan children's cookbooks and try new recipes together. As your children mature, you can attempt more complicated recipes using exotic ingredients. Get them involved in food preparation and they'll happily gobble up their creations!

Remember...

If they are allowed to fill up on empty calories and "junk food," children will not have much of an appetite for healthful foods. Do not allow your children to have crisps, chips, sweets, or sugary drinks, except on rare occasions. There is nothing wrong with the occasional treat, but a steady diet of such foods is detrimental.

Children learn from what they see. Try to eat a variety of healthy foods every day and be sure to set an example by trying new foods. If your kids see you turning your nose up at unfamiliar foods, they will be likely to do the same.

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