I clearly remember thinking that I had successfully raised adventurous eaters by the time both of my children hit 2 years old. They loved sweet potatoes and broccoli, often asking for more. I had also been pretty successful at avoiding refined sugars, artificial food colouring and flavours. I took comfort in the fact that their diet was firmly planted on mostly whole foods. My job as a parent to establish healthy eating habits was complete. Cue laughter here.
And then they turned 3 and began exercising a little more, shall we say, independence? They began refusing some of those nutrient dense foods and began noticing other foods.
Fast forward to teenage hood and I am feeling pretty good about where we have landed as a family. While my kids do enjoy candy & chips a little more than I would like them too, and I have to remind them to pack veggies and fruit in their school lunches, they are great eaters with a palette for all kinds of flavours. They are adventurous and will try new food experiences pretty willingly. They rarely complain about what is on the table and they know their way around the kitchen. Let me be clear that it wasn’t always this way.
I know that feeding a family is exhausting. I know that it is easy to run out of menu ideas. And I know that you want to create healthy habits as a family. Many of our healthiest habits begin in the kitchen. With over 20 years of experience in the Early Education field and several years as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, I am still learning, but I have collected some pretty great tidbits of advice along the way! Here are my top 5 suggestions for creating healthy habits that start in the kitchen.
Top Five Strategies For Creating Adventurous Eaters
- Reluctantly, but believing it was the right thing to do, I allowed my children to try all kinds of things that I may not have encouraged otherwise. I am a firm believer that the more you avoid something, the more shiny and appealing it becomes.
- I also remained consistent about offering plenty of whole food options. If they didn’t like something in particular, I thought about different ways to serve the same food. For a time, my son didn’t like cooked carrots. I began serving raw carrots alongside the cooked ones and he ate the raw ones without complaint. Eventually, cooked carrots were a go too.
- Keep a routine for snack and meal times. Childhood grazing leads to less eating overall in a day than scheduled eating times. Of course there is flexibility, but there is value in having a child experience actual hunger. This helps us be able to listen to our bodies and eat when we are hungry and not just bored. Keep in mind that children have small tummies. Aim for 3 meals as well as 2-3 snacks per day.
- Try not to sweat it when they refuse to eat certain things. It was not always easy, in fact there were plenty of times I left the dinner table frustrated and sometimes in tears that my efforts weren’t more appreciated and that we talked about eating a bite of peas more in one meal than anyone should in a lifetime. When a child is small, even getting them to kiss their food goodbye begins a fun interaction. Over time, this can grow to smelling the food, then licking it and then a one bite to be polite policy. All the while, this remains fun and we keep any adult frustration under wraps.
- Have fun. Eating food together should be a time to connect, a safe place to talk about the highlights and the crummy parts of our day. When we allow stress around the table, everyone loses and children especially lose their appetite.
Need a little more inspiration? I took all of my, ‘wish I would have handled that differently,’ moments as well as my successes and created the Family Nutrition Quest. It is packed full of tips and tricks to help you create in the kitchen and connect around the table as a family.
- Need ideas for encouraging a selective eater? Got it!
- Need help menu planning and creating grocery lists? Done – a whole month in fact!
- Want to reduce the amount of time you spend in the kitchen? Covered
Click here for more info on Family Nutrition Quest and to take advantage of time limited savings.