Some Advice From Friends….

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I love the opportunities I’ve had in recent months to speak to parent groups about kids and eating.  We all have issues, we all have problems, we all have various phases that our little ones go through.  What I’ve learned is that the parents who are most successful in raising children who love to eat everything, are the ones who have learned to enjoy the “up” times and ride out the “down” times, without letting their children get stuck in some long-term bad habits.

This week, I’m posting a compilation of some the tips I’ve picked up in talking to other moms, dads and caregivers, about getting little kids to try, and even enjoy, new foods.  I’d love to hear your suggestions and comments, too.

–          I put very, very small portions – like one tablespoon size, or even less  – of each item we’re eating on my (20 month old) daughter’s plate.  Then I do insist that she eat everything before she has a little bit of dessert, which she loves.  This works well because it gives her some sense of accomplishment that she’s finishing her meal, as we ask her to do.  Sometimes I think people make the mistake of making toddler portions too big and then the kids won’t finish their dinner because they are just not that hungry.

–          Recognize that a lot of things about food are just phases, much like everything else in parenting.  If they don’t like green beans or beets today, try them again in a month or a year or five years.  Keep cycling everything through and eventually, they will probably take to it.

–          My (three year old) daughter is a much better eater when she is involved in helping me prepare the food.  I always save something for her to do, even if it’s just stirring something or being in charge of putting cheese on the pasta.

–          I’m not the best cook in the world and I know it.  So I make sure that any trip to any restaurant is a chance to try something new.  I’ve got my kids (2 and 3) thinking that grilled bell peppers and broiled eggplant is the greatest thing ever, just because they ate it at a restaurant.

–          I think it’s important to get little kids eating foods altogether, as they are served, rather than picking apart things like casseroles and stir fry dishes.  So I make sure there is a “unifying ingredient” that my children like that is part of the dish.  For example, they like tomato sauce, so I can usually get them to eat things like vegetable lasagna by making sure that every bite has some tomato sauce.  Same thing with salads, because they like salad dressing, and Asian dishes because they like sesame oil.  I just make sure that every bite of meat or vegetables that I want them to eat has a dab of that unifying flavor. 

And finally, this from a chef/ caterer who has four little ones at home:

–          Don’t be afraid to add herbs and even spices to little kids’ foods.  For some reason, a lot of people seem to think that everything we serve to kids has to be bland.  I don’t like the taste of plain steamed cauliflower, so why should I expect my kids to?

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