Foster Healthy Eating Habits in Children

Food has Unlimited Potential: Foster Healthy Eating Habits in Children by Teaching them to Shop and Cook!

Raise your hand if you are someone who has a kiddo, little cousin or sibling who seemingly only eats chicken nuggets and pasta with butter…

… or if you are a fellow RD working with kids and families who hears “My kid won’t eat anything!” on the daily from frustrated families?!

One in three parents would describe their young child as a picky eater. Being part of meal or snack time with a kiddo who constantly refuses to try new foods or flip flops between food likes and dislikes can be frustrating. It’s important as the caregiver at the table to remain calm and model the eating mannerisms you wish to instill in your child.

Here are five tips for getting your kids involved:

  1. Pick a recipe together: Children need to be part of the plan from the beginning, and it helps if they prepare something that they love to eat. Shop for groceries together too!
  2. Incorporate learning: Build on lessons they learn in school, such as math, social studies, media literacy, spelling, science and reading. Younger children can practice fine motor skills.
  3. Keep it fun! Imaginative play helps children get deeply involved. Make a theme night or turn your kitchen into a restaurant or reality cooking show.
  4. Be a role model: If you’re excited, they will be too. Try a new food, describe the flavour and be adventurous to inspire your eaters to do the same. Get other members of the family involved.
  5. Be cool about the mess: Spills and accidental messes happen, and it’s important to remain calm about little mishaps. Keep kitchen towels handy for cleaning up spills.

WHAT CAN MY CHILD DO? Here’s a guideline of kitchen skills based on age:

  • 2-3 year olds can wash vegetables and fruit or tear lettuce and salad greens
  • 3-4 year olds can mash potatoes and bananas or mix together batters
  • 4-6 year olds can measure dry and liquid ingredients or set the table
  • 6-8 year olds can toss salad ingredients together or make a simple breakfast
  • 8-12 year olds can make their own school lunch or help to plan meals
  • Teens can follow more complicated recipes or assemble and mix most ingredients. They can also be in charge of making one meal per week.

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We’re taking it back to the basics with these fruit & veggie kabobs AND talking mealtime strategies!

Grab some pre-chopped fruit and veg from the store, or refer to above for age-appropriate ways kiddos can get involved in preparing the produce for this simple snack. Allow them to help assemble the kabobs and get the yogurt and hummus from the fridge to add to side dishes for dipping!

Add a mix of familiar and new foods to the kabobs so your little one can opt to eating familiar, preferred fruit or veggies when they refuse or truly do not like a new one. Remember, it can sometimes take up to 15 trials of a new food (at different eating occasions, offered in new ways) for a child to take a liking to it.

The kabobs are perfect for allowing a child to eat with their hands. Allow them to lick, smell and take the food in and out of their mouth after trying it in order to familiarize themself with a new texture or flavour.

Take the focus away from how the new food tastes, by modeling enjoyment of and asking about the colour, texture and shape. Using descriptive words can help the child identify what they like or dislike about a certain food. In turn, this helps you understand how you could serve it differently next time!

The dips make the snack that much more fun! Greek yogurt and hummus make a great choice for adding protein, fibre, and a little iron to the snack.

Sources: Dietitians of Canada

Article & Photos by: Sydney Withers RD