Got Picky Eaters? By Katherine Matutes, Fitness and Wellness Program Coordinator, JCC Indianapolis
Opponents step up to the battle line in preparation for the impending face-off. It’s not a war, it’s just dinner time! The feud begins with: “That looks gross! I’m not
eating it!” and is usually volleyed with “just try one bite,” which eventually turns into “just have one bite and then you can have some dessert.”
Does this battle happen at your house regularly? You’re not alone. It is a common source of frustration for parents trying to encourage their kids to try healthier foods. Parents often resort to bribing children with the promise of something sweet if only they will try the vegetable (or other food your child refuses), assuming that once they taste the food the child will enjoy it. It does work on occasion, but the net result is the child is inadvertently taught that dessert is the more elusive and desirable item.
The good news is that there are several ways to turn this scenario around. One of the most important steps to encourage a diverse diet is by getting kids involved in the process. Allow children to tag along to the grocery store and select something from the produce section to cook for dinner. Get them involved in the kitchen (even a two-year old can rinse broccoli). They will be much more vested in trying something if they’ve had a hand in the preparation. It may not work the first few times, but hang in there and continue offering the food repeatedly. The real trick for parents is to not let refusals become a test of wills because the child will win every time.
You can’t really force a child to eat something–and if you do they usually harbor a permanent dislike of the item. I know one mom who told her toddler to sit at the table until he swallowed the one bite of peas he was holding in his mouth. Thirty minutes later he spit the pea mush out and was sent to bed. The toddler in question is now a 6’2” healthy, nineteen year old–who still hates peas.
A better tactic is for parents to model good eating behaviors themselves and follow this rule of thumb: the parents decide what and how much goes on the child’s plate, and the child decides what and how much they eat. Giving the child a sense of control goes a long way towards reducing their resistance. Eventually the child’s curiosity will get the better of him.
You can learn more healthy eating tactics for kids by attending the JCC Spirit & Place Event “A Day of Wellness,” where Katherine Matutes, PhD., nutrition and wellness expert, will lead a workshop to encourage families with young children to use familiar foods as stepping stones to new and healthier foods. A chef from Second Helpings will provide tastings using seasonal and local foods (provided by Green B.E.A.N. Delivery) as main ingredients.
Join us November 6th, noon-1 pm for the free nutrition event. “A Day of Wellness” runs 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Ride your bike, participate in a yoga or dance workshop, or try an art therapy project. Three of Indy’s favorite food trucks will be parked on the premises too. More information is at www.JCCindy.org.