Having a diverse diet with different fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins helps you stay healthy and have the energy to get through the day. Now that you have kids, you may have seen the types of foods you have on hand slowly diminish.
Kids’ taste buds are more sensitive than adults, so getting them interested in new foods can be harder, especially if they aren’t sweet foods. Scientists believe this is evolutionary to attract babies to their mother’s milk and stop young kids from eating bitter foods that could be poisonous.
Thankfully, some tips and tricks can help you vary your kids’ diet to set them up for healthy eating throughout their life.
Here’s how to promote a diverse diet in your kids.
Shared meals are essential to modeling healthy eating habits during early childhood. Children frequently learn by observation. Making healthy meals and drinks for everyone will help them learn eating behaviors they’ll carry with them throughout their lives.
During shared meals, put away your electronics and other distractions and remain focused on your food and family. This can help your kids be more engaged with their meals.
For a healthy dinner, you’ll want to provide a combination of protein with vegetables, fruits, and grains. Having a variety of foods will ensure your kids get various nutrients. For example, eating certain types of fish around two times a week can give your children the right amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which help their brains develop.
A colorful plate can also boost your kids’ interest in their meals. A fun-looking plate can make them more focused on eating during mealtime. There are even some tools to cut food into fun-looking shapes to help mealtime feel more like playtime and less like a chore.
Finger foods are another great way to get kids engaged with their food. Having grabbable fruits, veggies, and finger sandwiches can introduce them to the different food textures and make mealtime more playful.
If it’s safe, consider letting your kids help prepare food for meals, even if it’s just washing produce. Praise their role in assisting so they feel proud of the task they’re doing. When kids are involved in the meal, they’ll be more excited to eat it. This strategy is great for introducing new foods to their diet.
Kids are more sensitive to new food colors, shapes, textures, and taste profiles. They’re more likely to decide they dislike a new food before they even try it.
If your child says they don’t like a food, resist the urge to automatically add it to the list of foods they don’t like. It may take you presenting the food in various forms and situations to get your kids to accept it.
Ensure you introduce new foods at a typical meal or snack time when your child is hungry. Also, keep the portion small at first, so your child isn’t overwhelmed.
Letting your kids have a role in choosing meals will help them feel empowered. Giving them a choice between healthy food options will also help them feel more satisfied when they sit down to eat it.
Giving them this freedom also helps them learn to make healthy choices independently in the future when they encounter less-nutritious food options. Before going to the store, you can sit down with your kids and look through cookbooks or other recipe options to get ideas for their meals. Then go together so they can find the ingredients to bring home.
Snack time is perfect for introducing new fruits, veggies, and spreads to your child. A new snack can excite snack time and seem more like a game than a new food experience.
Since snacks typically have fewer food options than meals, you can spend more time on the new food. If your child is old enough, teach them about where the food grows or read them a story about it to gain their interest in trying it.
Even without introducing new foods, snack time is a great time to add more nutritious food during the day. Raw fruits and vegetables with yogurt, peanut butter, or hummus are great healthy snacks. You could also try wheat crackers and cheese or another healthy combination.
It can be tempting to grab chips or fruit snacks when you don’t have time to prepare snacks during the day. Prepping snacks ahead of time by precutting and packing them can make them an easy grab-and-go option.
Having fruits and vegetables as snack options teaches your kids to think of them as snacks, making them more likely to choose them in the future.
It’s hard not to fall into the trap of giving your kids the few foods you know they like, but giving in to a child’s cravings will make it harder for them to have a varied diet. Getting your kids involved and having patience when introducing foods are the keys to adding diversity to your kids’ palates and setting them up for success later in life.
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