Getting Kids to Eat Their Colors

While all kids have picky eating behaviors at least some of the time, how that issue gets expressed is as unique as your child. Behaviors such as liking a food one day and refusing it the next are common. Some kids will only eat a certain food for a week at a time or have a meltdown simply if the different foods on their plate are touching. For many kids, certain colors of food is the issue.

The official color of food battles at our house was orange. I watched in horror and awe as my child ate dirt, licked a trashcan, tried to drink water off a manhole cover and then refused mashed sweet potatoes, cooked carrots, carrot soufflé, and about 50 other orange food dishes. All I can say is, it’s a good thing I love orange vegetables. I ate enough for us both!

Finally, still determined, I tried baked sweet potato fries. We never eat fast food, so it was not like my kid was used to fries daily. The result? She ate about three helpings and asked for more. The mystery was finally solved! Orange was not the issue, the turn-off was the soft texture. Since the discovery, the kiddo has taken to carrots and dip, carrot-raisin slaw and, always, baked sweet potato fries. Here’s some tips I learned from preparing a few hundred orange dishes (so you won’t have to)!

Tips for Dealing with a Food Color Issue

• Mix it up. For example, if green is the problem, try serving green grapes, kiwi slices, honeydew just to help your child understand that not all green foods taste like broccoli.

• Where possible, try recipes for both raw and cooked variations. Texture can be just as important as flavor for some kids.

• A little dip will do. Kids like to dip, whether it’s the fun of interacting with their food or just the added flavor of a healthy dressing or dip, this approach can work well.

• Fun shapes and presentations or even how you name a dish can also lower the barrier for trial. Use a small cookie cutter to make shaped from cucumbers or red peppers, or make a carrot rose using a long peeling of carrot. For a fun meal, serve up different shapes of vegetables and some dressings and let kids make an “edible picture” on their plates.

• While stealth nutrition offers a short-term solution, it doesn’t help form long-term healthy eating habits. Avoid the puree approach, but still try chopping vegetables fine and adding them to pasta sauces, or incorporating them into a recipe such as shredded carrots in a turkey burger.

What’s your favorite tip that works for getting your picky eaters to try new foods? What recipes work best for you? Is there a color of food your kids avoids?

Published on: April 26, 2011
About the Author
Photo of Beth Bader

Beth Bader is the coauthor with Ali Benjamin of the acclaimed book, The Cleaner Plate Club, designed to help parents understand picky eating behaviors; where they originate, and how to deal with them creatively to get kids to eat better.

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