Next tip for raising healthy eaters: Be very patient when you are trying to introduce new foods. It can take up to 15 offerings before a child will taste a new food! And then it may take several tastes before it becomes familiar and accepted. Don’t give up too quickly! Spread the offerings out over time, though – don’t peddle the broccoli breakfast, lunch and dinner for 5 days a row or you will likely have a mutiny on your hands!
Remember: you are in charge of what you offer your child, but they are in charge of what they choose to eat – that will help them cultivate a healthy relationship with food.
Offer a variety of flavors from a young age so they get used to tastes other than sweet and salty such as sour, pungent, astringent and bitter. Offer veggies early and frequently, and use small amounts of gentle herbs and spices (not salt or peppers with babies). For first tastes, offer the food plain, but once they are eating it, adding some herbs will help them develop a broader palate for their whole life.
One thing we know for sure is that our kids aren’t eating enough veggies in this country. According to a large scale study on infant and toddler feeding, the most consumed vegetable by kids is French fries! Yikes! Not only that, but 1 in 10 babies eat French fries and drink either sweetened fruit drinks or soda before their first birthdays. 25% of children under 2 don’t eat a single fruit on many days and 33% don’t eat a single veggie! That means 1 in 3 toddlers aren’t eating a single veggie on any given day.
As fruits and vegetables are the primary source of many of the most important vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients for health and development, that’s simply got to change. Vegetables are a key component in a healthy diet for all growing kids. Veggies are nutrient powerhouses: they pack a big dose of nutrition in a small number of calories. In addition to being the primary source of many micronutrients crucial for healthy growth, development and energy, they also provide a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, with a lot less sugar than most fruit (another excellent, real food source of micronutrients and fiber).
Part of the problem is our poor modeling. Our children do as we do, not as we say. A 2009 study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 73.7 percent of U.S. adults ate vegetables fewer than three times per day, the minimum recommended number.
We need to work harder as families to increase our overall consumption of vegetables. The nutrients and fiber from a broad range of vegetables can help both children and adults to feel full, and may stave off cravings for sweeter, lower-quality carbohydrate sources like crackers, cookies, soda and candy –two key strategies for reducing or preventing weight gain.
See tomorrow’s blog for getting your kids to nosh the rainbow!