It’s time to get back to basics with vegetables.
What if I told you to forget the numbers and stop counting how many pieces of broccoli or carrot that little Josie or Jack eat?
I often find from my regular dealings with concerned parents that everyone knows the building blocks for balanced meals.
However, a little screwed-up face rejecting a nutritious meal made with love or the latest piece of research scaremongering about childhood obesity can bring even the most unflappable adult undone.
My recommendation is to take the pressure off yourself – and your kids – hit pause and rewind and go back to basics with fresh food. Teach your own version of Fresh Food 101. Rebuild the foundations while focusing purely on keeping meal time positive and fun.
What are those veggies called? Where do they grow? Are they long, mashed or round?
Talk about colour and crunch while role modelling that you are enjoying eating with your kids.
Carrot sticks and hummus? Avocado on crackers? Cauliflower, mac and cheese?
Under pressure, it’s easy to forget that we aren’t trying to force feed our kids vegetables, we are trying to raise competent and adventurous eaters.
You can help your kids learn to like new foods and improve family mealtimes using and understanding these three steps …
3 steps towards learning to like new foods
Step 1. Building knowledge and awareness
Food education begins away from the table. You can build food knowledge by learning the names of vegetables and their colours through craft (colouring in, painting, stickers), reading books about vegetables and involving kids with the shopping, cooking or gardening.
Step 2. Willingness to try
Family style meals are great, where kids can choose what to put on their plate from a meal you place in the middle of the table. It takes about 20 positive exposures to a food for a child to trust that food and build the confidence to try it. Don’t keep count, just keep on providing opportunities for them to learn. This will encourage them to naturally progress from awareness to acceptance themselves.
Step 3. Choosing to eat it
Continue to have family style meals and involve kids in food. Slowly over time, you will see your child increase the variety on their plate. Remember to focus on the mealtime atmosphere, rather than exactly how many bites your child has taken and if they have picked out their peas.
Remember, just like any other learning, some kids take longer than others but everyone has the ability to learn.
By pressing reset and making a renewed effort to teach – not preach – food education to your kids, you will help them eat more adventurously at meal time.