The most frequent concern I hear from parents about their children’s nutrition is “They are just so picky!” It seems like for the first two years your child would eat almost anything you put in front of them, then suddenly dinner favorites are seen as foreign matter and vegetables are not to be trusted!
What changed? When we think about how a child develops; a lot! At 24 months your child’s growth rate slows significantly. Although still developing, you’re likely not going to see them sprout up as rapidly as they did in the first two years until puberty! A decrease in growth equals a decrease in appetite. In combination with a toddler’s increased awareness of their environment and sensitivity to textures and taste, their selectivity is to be expected!
Books have been written about how to get your kids to eat healthier. In fact, you’ve probably come up with a few good strategies yourself. If there is one tactic I’ve found that works well for my clients; it’s allowing your child to be involved in the family meal process. Whether that’s in planning, shopping, or even simple tasks in preparation; most parents find their child will be open to a wider variety if they can take some ownership in meals. I’m talking about going beyond hiding vegetables into their favorites like squash in lasagna or cauliflower in mashed potatoes. This age is a great time to help your child overcome their fear of vegetables and foreign foods by being a good role model and exposing them to a variety of options.
Let’s think about this; last time you went to a restaurant you probably got to choose your side items that came with your grilled chicken, right? Would you have enjoyed your dinner as much if your meals at restaurants automatically came with two sides someone else chose? Sure you like the broccoli and mashed potatoes but if you had say in how it was prepared or what options you had, wouldn’t you have enjoyed your food more? Now, I’m not suggesting you turn your kitchen into a restaurant, but perhaps we can start letting our kids be more involved in choices and preparation of family meals.
One of the best ways to get children involved in choices is taking them shopping with you so they can help make meal and food decisions. There is no better time than spring to get the kids outside and to the Farmer’s Market for shopping and fresh air! Taking the kids with you could be worth the extra effort. In a world where food is so convenient it’s important to getthem away from the screen and learning more about where our food comes from. Try some of these fun market tips with your family.
- Look up the Farmer’s Markets near you and write down their days and hours of operations.
- Do some research and find out what is in season when you are shopping and incorporate seasonal produce into your meal plans.
- Plan ahead and bring: cash, healthy snacks, water, and re-usable shopping bags.
- Walk the entire market before making your purchases, talking about the different varieties foods with your kids as you go.
- Talk to the farmers about the produce and encourage your kids to participate. This can be as simple as the different colors and varieties of vegetables and fruits. Farmers can also give you good tips for cooking!
- Allow the children to help you choose vegetables and fruits to take home. Talk to your kids about things to look for when picking out produce; blemish, bruises, bugs, and ripeness.
- Make it fun! Children can do a scavenger hunt at the market or even at the grocery store. Assign them produce to find with fun clues. Here are some ideas but get creative and make your own!
- Find a vegetable that grows underground, on a bush, on a tree etc.
- Find a fruit or vegetable smaller than an egg: berries, cherry tomatoes.
- Find something you have never eaten.
- Find a vegetable that is long, skinny, and green: cucumbers, zucchini.
- Find a vegetable that is round and red: strawberries, apples, tomatoes.
- This fruit is as big as your head! It’s rough on the outside but sweet and orange on the inside: cantaloupe.
Although it might be tough to admit the best ideas are often our own ideas;and I’m sure your children might think the same way. If children are a part in making meal decisions that squash they found at the Farmer’s Market might be just be a good idea.