Though research does show that kids may have up to twice as many taste buds as adults, that alone doesn’t explain how kids seem to enter the world despising broccoli. Picky eating is one of the most common concerns among parents and probably one of the most Googled issues on the internet (second only to “how to get baby to sleep more”).
We’re not here to tell you how to solve selective eating, but we can help you frame food in a healthy way that your kid can get on board with. Even if it takes them awhile to come around to the many flavours and textures of wholefoods, these tips should help them form a foundation of understanding healthy food and the important role it plays in their lives.
1. Differentiate between real food and processed food
This concept may seem a bit complex for kids, but it’s never too early to help your little one get a handle on the difference between fresh food and food that’s been tampered with. First, decide what terms you want to use for each category of food (i.e. real/fresh food and fast/junk food), explain the basics then have fun pop quizzing them every now and then in the supermarket.
2. Let them participate
Kids love getting involved in what they see as “grown-up things.” Next time you do your grocery shopping, bring your little one along and ask them for input when picking produce for the week. And don’t stop there -- get them to help you prep the veggies, explaining the cooking process as you go. For kids that are old enough, you can even help them develop a signature recipe; pick a simple dish and help them make it once a fortnight, gradually handing over tasks until they’re making most of it on their own. They’ll be so proud to serve it up and, hopefully, proud to eat it!
3. Explain where different foods come from
As far as kids know, fruits and veggies just appear, fully-formed, in the supermarket. They have no idea that potatoes were dug up from the ground or avocadoes were plucked from a tree -- that is, until you tell them. You can present it to them as a story, taking on the part of a tomato telling the tale of its travels and how it came to be in your kid’s burrito or draw pictures that your kid can colour in as you explain it.
4. Emphasise the social side of mealtimes
Eating together is one of humankind’s oldest traditions. Focusing on conversation instead of how your child is eating may help them feel more at ease during mealtimes -- especially if the focus is usually centred around how many bites they’ve taken, how much they’ve eaten, etc. A truly healthy relationship with food has to be a stress-free relationship!
5. Start a conversation about food-related advertising
A study a Stanford University showed that packaging and brand names affect how kids perceive taste. It may seem too complicated to explain to your child, but don’t be afraid to touch on the topic. Depending on your child’s age, they may already be insisting that you buy one brand over another, so you can start by opening up a conversation about why they prefer that certain brand and go from there.