5 Techniques to Inspire Healthy Food Choices in Your Child’s Diet

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The following post is by Christen Babb and originally appeared February 2010. Also, don’t forget about Nicole of Simple Organic’s From Pinterest to Real Life link up.  Have a great weekend, everyone!
Many parents struggle to teach their children healthy eating habits, especially in today’s world laden with overly processed, heavily sweetened foods.

It used to be so easy.
As a baby,  junior gobbled up his vegetables to his little heart’s content. You were certain he would happily snack on organic carrot sticks while his preschool buddies scarf down snack cakes. However, as he’s establishing greater independence, he’s beginning to turn his nose to healthy choices.

So, what’s a mom to do?  First of all, take heart knowing you are not alone. Establishing healthy eating habits takes a lifetime. It’s a continuous journey involving creativity, gentle persistence, and encouragement.  Listed below are some ways to successfully implement healthy food habits that carry into adulthood.


1. Start Early
2. Make It a Game
3. Be a Role Model
4. Use Consistency and Gentle Perseverance
5. Offer Non-Food Rewards

1. Start Early

The most important step to creating healthy food choices is starting early. It’s important to  offer a wide variety of nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables starting in infancy, perhaps even flavors and textures that are unfamiliar to you. I am personally an advocate of homemade baby food. It tastes better, costs significantly less, creates less environmental waste ,and you control the ingredients.

However, whether you choose to feed your baby homemade baby food, conventional store-bought food, or a combo of the two – consistently offer him a wide variety of nutrient dense foods, steering away from sweet treats for the first year. Your child’s tastes are developed early in life. The earlier the exposure to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, the more apt he will be to eat them later in life.

Photo by Cozy Memories

2. Make it a Game

I’ve never been into the “deceptive” technique of sneaking vegetables into your child’s diet. It’s seems a little, well, deceptive. As a parent, it’s important to teach honesty and integrity in all walks of life.  This includes making healthy food choices.

Fresh fruits and vegetables come in a wide variety of colors and delicious flavors. Instead of sneaking spinach into a pan of brownies (yes, this is recommended by some nutritionists) why not use food as a teaching tool – encouraging children to eat foods that represent all the colors of the rainbow? We recommend using a fun chart like this Nutrition Checklist.

This exercise  encourages children to make healthy food choices while also providing a guideline for parents to ensure optimal nutrition. For example, if your child eats a serving of spinach, have him check off one green box in the vegetable category.  Do this after every snack time or meal so he soon associates healthy eating with positive parental feedback.

3. Be a Role Model

As much as we hate to admit it, children imitate their parents’ behavior. If you yell and scream at your child, he will eventually yell and scream back at you. The same principles are true for food . You can’t expect your child to happily eat his broccoli while you scarf down a plate full of french fries.

As parents, we need to be role models who inspire healthy food choices. If your child sees you consistently making healthy food choices, he is more apt to do the same.

4. Use Consistency and Gentle Perseverance

If you have a picky eater, do not expect overnight change. Children can learn to eat healthy foods, but it can take eight to ten tries. The key is not to use force. Force will ensure in your child’s mind that healthy food must be bad .

Instead, let your child consistently help you with meal planning, grocery shopping, and even the food preparation if he is old enough. This allows a choice in the matter, and he will be more apt to eat the foods that included his input. If your child is still belligerent, be persistent and encourage him to eat only as many bites as he is old. For example, ask your three year old to eat only three bites of broccoli.

If your child still refuses, let him go hungry. This sounds harsh, but he won’t starve. If the healthy food is replaced with something he prefers, he quickly learns that persistent refusal ends in his favor. Don’t give in. It will only harm him in the long run.

5. Offer Non-Food Rewards

Let’s be honest. Most of us prefer double-chocolate cake over a plateful of steamed broccoli. It doesn’t matter how often you eat the broccoli. Human taste buds are genetically wired to prefer sweet foods. It is the same with our children. Even breast milk and infant formula are quite sweet, so our little ones begin life with a predisposition for sweet foods.

With this in mind, it’s important not to provide sweet rewards for healthy eating. Every parent (I’m included!) has been guilty of saying something like, “Aimee, you may have a cupcake for dessert if you finish all your broccoli.”  We bribe our children to eat their vegetables, thinking that if they eat their broccoli enough times, they will eventually do so without negotiation.  This is not an effective way to teach healthy food choices, as Aimee will eventually assume the cupcake is superior to the broccoli because it is used as a reward.

Instead of sweet treats, offer physically active rewards –  such as extra playtime with mommy or friends, a fun day at the park, or a new CD so they can dance to the music. Get creative and implement your child’s unique personality into his rewards.

And for the record, there is nothing wrong with sweet treats on occasion. Some of my best memories as a kid involve baking goodies with my mom. Just avoid using them as a bartering tool. Enjoy them for what they are in moderation, and your child will eventually learn to have an appreciation for all foods!

What Healthy foods do your kids love? What foods are more challenging to get them to eat? What techniques do you use to get your children to eat healthy foods?

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Comments

  1. Great tips! I have a taste-challenged eight year old (I like to call him that instead of “picky”) and I like to be reminded that I’m not alone. I’m going to try your game idea…that’s a great one.
    .-= Jan (Family Bites)´s last blog ..A Perfect Simple Weekend =-.

  2. Terrific post, Christen! Starting early is the one we missed with our oldest and she is our most picky eater. With her your step four has been the key: not expecting changes over night and being patient. It is helping that she likes to cook, so she is getting more involved in trying to eat new things that way.

    I think she is going to LOVE your rainbow chart! :-) Definitely very excited about getting to check things off and loves rainbows – great idea! I’m eager to see how it works in our home.

    Great post!

    • I totally agree with Kara. Our oldest is our most picky and I should have been more consistent from the start. It’s a lot hard to be consistent when you haven’t been for years!

      Great article, Christen!

  3. I have been trying to get my kids to eat thier veggies for so long, it’s sad. I tried forcing I tried stickers and even bribes nothing worked. When I backed off and started simple offering them as an option, my 5yr old daughter started to ome around. She take tiny bites from peppers, and loves broccoli. I cant say that I’m opposed to sneaking veggies into food. I dont really see the problem with adding veggies into the food you normally eat, for a little added nutrition.

    • I have to agree that its not a horrible thing to sneak veggies and other healthy things into your food. If that is your exclusive method of getting your child to eat his veggies, another tact might be in order. But even for myself, I sneak healthier options into my food all the time. My chocolate chip cookies are half wheat and white flour, I put eggplant in my lasagna, and the spinach brownies sounded pretty yummy!
      .-= Rhiannon ´s last blog ..Happy Valen-Birtha-Versary!!!! =-.

  4. Ooo…I love the check list.
    Thanks!
    .-= minneosta:madre | Sarah Jane´s last blog ..this week i love =-.

  5. These are all fabulous ideas. I started trying homemade baby food with my son around 7 or 8 months and he gagged on most everything. I thought he would just be a picky eater, but turns out he was just not ready! At 15 months he will eat nearly anything! He still gags easily, but that may be due to him trying to shove it in so fast. :) It just goes to show that each child develops at their own pace.
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..Project Life {February 7-13} =-.

  6. Oh, and P.S. That little girl of yours is SO adorable!
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..Project Life {February 7-13} =-.

  7. great ideas! My son eats everything and loves veggies but, my daughter has trouble. She surprises us sometimes…she likes fruits and veggies but, doesn’t like much else besides bread. (interesting, huh?) I never make exceptions for her, she eats whatever we eat but, she usually ends up eating the veggies and that’s it. I would love any suggestions you might have.
    .-= Gina´s last blog ..L-O-V-E =-.

  8. Great topic! Certainly the earlier the better and consistency. While taste buds like sweet, they can develop to love the sweet of grapes or clementines and even prefer them to candy! We’ve been rewarded with our work on this front with kids who prefer healthy food overall.

    Another two tips: Savor and experience. For adults as well as kids, we get caught up in sweet and rich foods because they immediately titillate the senses – but when you savor food and really focus on the experience, you can appreciate healthier foods like fruits and vegies. And when you really feel how energized good food makes you feel and how bad bad food makes you feel, it makes it more instinctive to make healthy choices. We had a thorough family groan on a day we ate at Burger King recently – the kids really felt terrible and they noted it!

    Finally, as they get older, talk with your kids about the why’s of nutrition. Believe me they take it to heart over time. My son often asks me which food is healthier when making choices and takes pride in explaining nutrition to his friends. Kids like to think of themselves with Superhero fuel in their bodies.

    More ideas http://www.fitfamilytogether.com/Family-Fitness-How-To-Healthy-Eating-As-A-Way-of-Life.html

    • Sara –

      I love your tips…especially the “savor and experience” ones. And it’s a great idea to point out your feelings at the end of the meal. “Did that burger make you feel good or sluggish?” Kids need immediate reinforcement and that is simply a wonderful tip.

      I also agree that talking with your kids about nutrition is fundamental. My three year old (pictured above) will immediately point out whether a food is “healthy” or “unhealthy”. And she cracks me up because if the food happens to be “unhealthy”, she’ll say, “But Mom, the key is moderation.” Ahhh, out of the mouth of babes!

      Thank you, everyone, for your feedback and comments. It’s so much fun working with the Simple Kids team!

  9. Wonderful ideas. I’ve seen the importance of this in our home as well….
    .-= Simple Homeschool – Jamie´s last blog ..Weekend Links & Giveaway Winner =-.

  10. Great tips. I’ve also found for my eldest (like all of you the pickiest) that he prefers vegetables raw, rather than cooked. And making things smaller makes him more likely to eat them – for example, grating the carrot or chopping the broccoli into very small trees.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..photography projects for kids =-.

  11. This will be so helpful for so many mamas, Christen, thank you.

    Oddly enough both my boys devour broccoli in it’s steamed form and ask for more. Thanks goodness for that!

  12. Great stuff, Christen! I especially love the non-food related rewards idea- why have I never thought of that? If I promise The Boy a pillow fight every time he eats a vegetable, we may never have a battle over broccoli again.
    Now, do you have any tips on getting husbands to eat healthier? I’m watching mine wash down a biggie extra sloppy quarter pound double meat mcfatty slob burger with 116 ounces of high fructose corn syrup.
    .-= Minivan Mama´s last blog ..The Pacifier Diaries / Chapter Four: The Next Day =-.

    • Ahhh, you make me laugh! Hmm, as for the husband, not sure I want to go there…I might get myself into some trouble! Perhaps a “pillow fight” might entice him, too! ;)

  13. We’ve done the rounds from tiny babies with weight gain issues, to toddlers who ate just about everything to picky 3 year olds… and now at six our twin girls are starting to come back to some of the food they suddenly went off when they were younger.

    So I think you are spot on with advice to start early and offer a variety of foods. I also recommend offering small portions, smaller than most people think, especially for toddlers, and especially of a new food. A plate piled high with food can be really daunting for a toddler who’s appetite is for more ‘small and often’ than ‘few and large’ meals.

    Also eat together. Enjoy food as a family. For us cultivating a healthy attitude about food is really really important…food is not ‘good or bad’ and never made into a guilt or bribe or punishment situation. Food is something that helps keep us healthy, gives us energy and that we can enjoy as a family.

    Really enjoying reading your blog posts!

  14. Hi! Great post! I like all the tips – the ones is the comments too! I like the term “taste challenged” it sounds better than “picky”. I think I might use that one!! My oldest (5) is “taste challenged” and it’s so frustrating!! We will try anything to get him to eat better so he can grow healthy. THANKS!!!
    .-= Lynne @ Our Happy Home´s last blog ..Valentine’s Day 2010 =-.

  15. I see a trend here with the oldest child being the pickiest (or most taste-challenged!)…it’s that way in our house too. He’s got some sensory issues too which contribute to not liking the texture of a lot of foods. He’ll eat certain veggies raw but never cooked! I try not to give in when he doesn’t like anything I’ve prepared for dinner but it’s so hard. He eats a lot of PB&J! I also was “taste challenged” as a kid and am a more daring eater now, so I hold out hope that his tastes will expand as he grows up.

  16. My children are healthy eaters by many standards but still are picky about many foods. They will happily eat broccoli and carrots but they want pasta to have no sauce, only freshly grated cheese. We used to battle more about it when my oldest was around 3 and his food choices reflected the battle. Now I make sure I am comfortable with everything I serve. If they choose to only eat the biscuits (that I make with part whole wheat flour) at dinner I don’t worry about it. By the end of the week they have eaten a balanced diet.

    Another thing I sometimes do is place a small amount of a food they may not want on their plate and I inform them they do not have to eat it. However if they complain about it they will have to take a bite. For my boys forced bites can lead to gagging and are counter productive so I have used this tactic, sometimes successfully to gain acceptance of a food.

    Also, it is important that they are actually hungry at dinner time. If they have been snacking all afternoon it is far easier to refuse the healthy food choices.

    -Robin

  17. I see a definite trend in older children being pickier and I think it has to be some of that first child/first time parents syndrome. I know with my first, he was not a big fan of solids and was (is) small- 10% on the growth charts. I kinda freaked out and decided I had to get him to eat ANY way possible, giving in to whatever he wanted just so he would eat. Of course it didn’t make him any bigger, just pickier! Now I know the majority of kids will eat when they’re hungry- my job is not to make him eat but to give him healthy choices. Just add that to the list of things I would do differently… those poor first kids are the guinea pig children!

    • I could have written this exactly. My babies start out so chubby (including a near ten pounder) and then by toddlerhood and preschool they are very lean. With my first I worried a lot and was, like you, thankful she would eat anything. Now, though, years and a few more kids later, I can see that it just seems to be that my kids are lean – even my 3 year old who eats everything in front of him is lean.

      I like what you say Minivan Mama, and what Robin said about giving healthy choices and not *making* them eat, but giving them good options and feeling good about what you serve them.

  18. I grew up on macaroni and cheese, meatloaf and rice. Seems that’s all we ever had. I remember having “every man for himself” nights where I would heat up a frozen burrito or pizza and wash it down with a dr pepper.

    I’ve continued that trend into my 30’s now, and I’ll say that I wish I haven’t. My parents didn’t think about eating healthy, just eating what sounds and is tasty. Not good, and I’m not very pleased with the way I was raised. So if there is anything I can add to this post it’s how important setting the stage is. Parents set the stage and the kids will act on the stage.

    Just my opinion. Cheers!
    .-= Wayne John´s last blog ..The time when a Burger King employee threw a double cheeseburger at me =-.

  19. Wonderful ideas! I love finding more ways to keep the boys healthy. Keeps me motivated to keep on!
    Also, thank you so much for linking up to my post the other day! I really appreciate it!
    .-= jeana´s last blog ..A BIG Thank you! =-.

  20. All three of our children are very picky and are adept at finding the tiniest speck of a green veggie or herb. However, I have been able to get them to eat “cream of” soups, where I use my hand blender to puree veggies or have them cook in the slow cooker long enough that they’ve turned to mush (i.e. split pea soup w/bacon). Still, I use only the most basic ingredients–water, stock, onions, but no herbs/spices except sometimes a little garlic. Cream of broccoli soup, artichoke-spinach soup, and others have amazingly met with their approval!

    When we eat salad–which is almost every night, since I grew up with that–I give them ingredients from that night’s salad that they’ll eat, i.e. cucumbers, olives, dried cranberries, mandarins, nuts, baby carrots, etc. but without dressing. My oldest (7) will eat a little lettuce, too. This way, they’re at least having “salad.” I let them have a little salt or soy sauce on the cucumbers.
    .-= Myrrh C.´s last blog ..Precious Moments =-.

  21. Unlike so many of you, my first is not my pickiest eater about veggies….he’ll eat anything except squash ;o) and until 7, he would eat just about anything with no complaints. He grew up on homemade baby food with no added sugar until 18 months. For a long time, I thought this really made a difference :o) Then we had our second guy. Same mama, same food and wow, what a difference! He would eat very little that wasn’t sweet and wasn’t a carb. If I served him egg, toast and fruit for brekkie as a toddler, he’d eat the fruit first, then toast and then pick at the egg. I realized later that while my first doesn’t have a sweet tooth at all (he doesn’t even eat Birthday cake!), my second most decidedly does! So our big struggle is to limit sugar and encourage more vegetable eating (he’ll eat lots of fruit if he’s allowed to). One thing we do is just to not have it in the house…if something sugary isn’t available and a healthy snack is there instead, then he eats without fuss. Snacks were a challenge as I tended to serve fruit and a baked something :) Now, I’m trying to serve hummus dip or cream cheese dip with veggies and crackers or pita chips first and fruit afterwards :o)
    Now if someone has any insight into why my 9 yo inexplicably stopped liking rice and pasta after years of happy rice and pasta eating, I would be ever so grateful! So far, I’m just providing a similar carb and not making a fuss over it but it makes cooking more challenging…esp with our 1 yr old who has wheat sensitivities and *loves* rice.

    I’ve really enjoyed reading all the ideas ….I’ll have to check out the check list :) Mr. “I love my sugar” also Loves checklists!
    .-= Tanya´s last blog .. =-.

  22. I feel like I’m doing pretty well, until I meet a new mom whose kids get even less sugar than mine. I just cracked down on my 4-yo’s burgeoning habit of a dessert after EVERY meal by mandating that he chose one meal per day for a dessert. A small step, but an important one to reduce white sugar even farther.

    I regret using candy for potty training, even though it made me happy at the time! We’re just starting with dd but already off on the wrong foot (chocolate chips are the reward). Whoops!
    Thanks for the reminders,
    :) Katie

  23. Great post. Another way to get them interested is to offer many choices and see what they like naturally. Something is bound to appeal to a child when they feel like the choice is their own. This works especially well with fruits seeing as kids love sweet things. Another thing to motivate as far as fruit is concerned is to make sure it’s completely ripe before sharing. That’s when it’s the most juicy and sweet. And, one more strategy that works pretty well is to make sweet smoothies. Combine raw veggies or greens with sweet fruits, making the sweet fruit the dominant flavor and kids taste-buds will change faster than we think ;)
    .-= Tina´s last blog ..Will High Emotional Intelligence Solve Health Issues, Money Issues And More? =-.

  24. It’s so good to read a like-minded mommy’s take on healthy eating. We truly are what we eat, and food choices are all about the approach. I love your #1: start early. My daughter prefers peas to just about anything you offer her. If kids are given real foods without sugar, they’ll prefer them. And they’ll thank you later!! Preparing real food for kids is worth every second of effort.
    .-= Niki @ Spilled Ingredients´s last blog ..Microwaves Full Circle =-.

  25. Christen, thanks for this great post! I loved your ideas and I look forward to checking out Nurture Baby as well.
    .-= Nicole aka Gidget´s last blog ..An Adoption Story =-.

  26. I agree with not sneaking fruits and veggies in. I want my son to grow up liking them not thinking he’s never had them. sure sometimes he doesn’t but he also does sometimes – green beans, brocolli, sauteed spinach – he likes those three. I just have to be better about making them more often. he does try other veggies but most meet with disinterest or outright gagging but at least he tries them. I did try a smoothie because besides chocolate my son is not really into sweets…but he didn’t go for it.

  27. Jessica Browning says:

    I’m totally with you on not being a sneaky chef but my 10 month old would love it if everything tasted like yogurt…and if not yogurt, apples or bananas. He’s still so young I know I have time to help him expand his palate. For now, I have gotten really creative and mix lentils, black beans and all sorts of good stuff with fruit. Also, I recently discovered http://www.weelicious.com. So many creative recipes there! Great food (healthy and yummy) for the whole family. I haven’t been disappointed with one recipe yet. Check it out!

  28. My kids will eat lots of healthy foods but when younger prefer they aren’t mixed together – smoothies being an exception. For example, when making a salad they’ll eat the various ingredients but prefer them in little piles on a plate. Right now, cucumber slices, sugar snap peas, edamame, black olives, smoothies, whole-wheat pasta with parmesan, raw honey on a spoon as a treat, homemade muffins and granola bars are probably my four year old’s current favorites. I also prefer not to hide veggies, trusting that as my kids see us eating and enjoying various foods that at some point they’ll be open to trying them. In any case, I’ve seen it work with my two older kids. I think it is around eight ys. old in my house that my kids become more willing to eat homemade soups, casserole-type dishes, etc. and more tolerant of trying ‘new’ foods.

  29. I’m all for sneaking veggies into food. My 3 year old son is extra picky and extra stubborn. He will only eat certain foods. He will, however, try anything we bake together. He makes purees with me, he helps me put them in, but somehow after the muffin or whatever is baked, he forgets about the veggies and fruits inside and happily eats it. It’s not ideal, but this is a child who literally becomes ill just looking at most food. I continue to offer everything imaginable, I try all the other techniques, but it’s the ONLY way I can get him to eat a veggie. But to be clear, this is a child that won’t eat pasta, pizza, any meat, bread (other than homemade fruit breads like banana), pb&j, any sauces or dips (not even ketchup), beans or cheese. Sometimes a mom has to do what a mom has to do!

    I do like the idea of a color chart, or maybe even an “I Tried It!” chart, so I appreciate another tip for trying to teach him food is a wonderful thing not to be feared!

  30. Michelle, Personally I applaud what you are doing to feed your son as much good food as you can. You are not hiding the vegetables as he sees what goes into them. Instead you are teaching him that sometimes a dish may have an ingredient that you do not like on its own. I have had this conversation many times with my boys, often using buttermilk and fish sauce as an example. This knowledge and understanding of food allowed me to add an entire head of napa cabbage to a dumpling filling without any complaints. (All right, they complained at 1st, but I overcame it with the ingredient discussion).

    In addition you have not given up on offering him vegetables etc not hidden in his muffins. There is nothing wrong with making what he does eat more healthy, so long as you don’t throw up your hands and never offer anything else. I know some folks hide veggies in their children’s food and then never offer them a vegetable alone again. Which is an excellent way to give up on their future eating. A friend just posted on facebook that after 3 years of offering her 4 year old son red peppers he finally took a bite and loved them.

    -Robin
    .-= Robin @ Hippo Flambe´s last blog ..Kumquat Almond Polenta Torta =-.

  31. Well written post! Another thing I’ve tried to get my three kids interested in eating healthy is having them get involved in growing a few things. Last summer we grew Brussels Sprouts and the kids were thrilled to watch those crazy green balls sprout out from under the leaves. When it was finally time to harvest them, you would have thought they were getting M & Ms! We steamed them up, tossed on a bit of butter and suddenly, the bowl was empty! Sugar snap peas, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes… all easy things to grow and fun to watch.

  32. I really try to be grateful of my own journey and not covet other people’s circumstances, but I admit it is terribly difficult for me not to do so when I read about some of your children’s eating habits! You should be proud! It has been a constant issue in my house, trying to encourage healthy eating habits in my children while trying to please a meat-and-potatoes kind of husband who is not on the same page as me when he comes to nutrition and health (he has a tremendous sweet tooth and love of all things fatty, greasy and fried). The children have learned that dad’s choices are far more tastier than mom’s, almost to the point of mistrusting whatever I place in front of them unless it gets dad’s nod of approval. I want them to have healthy attitudes towards eating and the ability to make well-informed choices, but sometimes it feels like it is me up against my spouse, the kids’ classmates, grandparents who equate love with cupcakes and candy, and a family who feels life is too short not to indulge ourselves. Ugh! I try to remind myself that I was not brought up to make healthy choices, yet I still somehow came to adopt a healthy lifestyle eventually. I can only hope that my influence eventually lead my children to do the same. Thanks for the inspiration to keep treading on!

  33. Thank you for the article, it was supportive and informative.

  34. Great post, although I disagree with you about “sneaking” veggies into other foods. I think we look at that wrong. To me, putting spinach into brownies or adding a scoop of pumpkin puree to mac and cheese isn’t about being deceptive, it’s about trying to redeem foods that we like but that aren’t always that good for us. I know that I need more veggies in my own diet so why not add them wherever you can?
    Kate @ Green Around the Edges´s latest post: Ginger Pear Muffins

  35. Great ideas. I especially like the idea of making it a game and educating our children on healthy choices.
    Steph´s latest post: For the Days You Get Nothing Done

  36. I made a “food passport” for my kids. When they try a new food, they write or draw it into their book and I stamp the page. I also have a 7 year old child that loves veggies and (for him) exotic foods and his younger brother only likes broccoli and peas. After years of serving roasted brussel sprouts, he finally tasted one. Tastebuds change as people grow and some kids don’t like foods that aren’t familiar. My thoughts are to keep serving up food they don’t like, but make sure there are one or two things that they do eat to choose from on the table.

  37. We do a lot of things to make sure our kids are healthy eaters but I think our biggest one is the “21 rule.” If you put something on their plate 21 times, they will eventually taste and/or eat it. We just put it there, we don’t make them eat it and we don’t comment on it. A small quantity of a new food is less scary, so just a bite.

    We’ve successfully trained foster kids to eat for health too — so don’t despair if your kids aren’t babies. The “21 rule” works on bigger people too; just keep putting it on the table!

    I am short on time but have lots more tips in this post: http://brightlove-livinglargeinabigfamily.blogspot.com/2011/12/training-kids-to-eat.html

    Enjoy the blog – thanks.

  38. I have a 3-year old, who was started on healthy foods very early when I made all of his baby foods. As he is getting older, he still eats fairly healthy by most standards. But he is starting to develop the tendency to refuse things….either because he now CAN or because he doesn’t care for them. My 6-month old is just starting to eat purees, so the jury is out on how he’ll respond.

    I decided that there are so many battles I am going to have to fight as a mom and that I would not make food one of them. So, what we have on the table for dinner is what we have and if he chooses not to eat much, I know that he is fine and won’t starve. I do not want to make it a battle. But I am always on the lookout for ways to improve, so I appreciate this article! I am not an advocate of “sneaking” veggies into things, either. I still add veggies to many things, but I often have my son “helping” me make things and he is fully aware that we are adding yummy spinach into his smoothies, zucchini into the muffins, etc. Nothing is hidden.

    And I do love the idea above about a “food passport”! I’m going to have to try that out. How fun!

  39. My two-year-old is a pretty good eater. I’m not sure if that’s just his personality but I believe your first point about starting early is key. I breastfed and I heard that that introduces them to the idea of different flavors. Once he started eating solids, we offered healthy fruits and veggies. We don’t actually give him any sweets; he’s never had ice cream or cake. This may seem extreme to some people, but I figure that he doesn’t know what he’s missing out on so why bother introducing it? When he’s older and more exposed to sweets, we’ll allow it, but until then, I don’t see a huge advantage of introducing sweets just to do so.

    That said, he HAS eaten cookies and sweet breads like banana bread or pumpkin pie but I made them, and I explain that they’re treats for once in a while. He hasn’t whined and begged for them now that he’s tasted them either. His favorite foods are fruits (probably because they’re so sweet).

    The other point you made that I like is that parents need to be role models and continuously serve healthy delicious meals. My son now eats everything we eat at dinner. And we tend to cook and eat at home so that keeps his food mostly healthy. He’ll still eat out at restaurants with us as treats though.

    Sometimes if he doesn’t want to eat something, I tell him that we can alternate bites with something that he DOES like. So one bite will be the food he could care less about, and then the next bite is a fruit. And when he REALLY absolutely refuses a food, I just let it go. Since he’s such a not-picky eater, I can imagine that if he’s refusing a food, it’s probably pretty bad!
    Sleeping Mama´s latest post: Costco coupons according to LO

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