Turning Picky Eaters into Foodies
Are fussy eaters making your dinner table a battlefield? Here are some doable tricks that will teach your your child to love new foods
No. 4 They're Hired!
A Canadian study found that kids who regularly helped with meal prep preferred healthier foods and ate 10 percent more of their veggies than the kitchen-slackers. Here's how to put yours to work:
SUPERMARKET SWEEP. Melissa d'Arabian, host of the Food Network's Ten Dollar Dinners and author of Ten Dollar Dinners: 140 Recipes and Tips to Elevate Simple, Fresh Meals Any Night of the Week, has four daughters ages 5 to 7. In the grocery store, the girls are in charge. “I ask them to go find the best kale to put in smoothies,” says d'Arabian, who teaches them to pick produce for high quality and flavor.
DOWNSIZE YOUR KITCHEN UTENSILS. Buy a pair of safety scissors so your child can cut fresh herbs. Use small bowls and whisks to make egg cracking and scrambling easy for little fingers. And don't forget the kid-size apron and chef hat. Kitchen work isn't just a fun, gooey science experiment. When kids help create the meal, they own the meal, boosting odds that they'll like and eat it, too.
GROW YOUR OWN PIZZA. Plant basil, tomatoes, and oregano and call it Emma's (or Liam's) Garden. Together you'll dig, till, weed, and, finally, harvest for the big Pizza Night. Grow your own tacos with lettuce, cilantro, and chili peppers. Or try a dessert garden: Bake a pie or a crumble with just-picked lemons or berries. “When children are engaged from an early age in the process of where their food comes from, their relationship to it is transformed,” says Waters.
No. 5 Talk Turkey
…and protein, carbs, fats, vitamins, and minerals at the dinner table. Teach your child that protein—poultry, fish, eggs, meat—will build her muscles so she can grow bigger and stronger. Carbs—whole-grain breads, cereals, and pastas—bestow energy, so she'll be able to run and play for a longer time. Fats—avocados, nut butters, olive oil, fish—will boost brainpower and make her more alert in preschool tomorrow. Fruits and vegetables help keep her healthy, so she may not get sick as often.
When your child says “I don't like this salmon,” offer a nutritionally equivalent option—like walnuts or a hard-boiled egg—and tell her that's OK, but she still needs to eat something that will build muscles and help her pay attention to the teacher in the morning. “If your kid isn't going to eat vegetables that night, give her something she loves, like blueberries,” says Miller. “She'll still be getting antioxidants and fiber.”