Strategies for Raising Healthy Eaters
5. Expose, Expose, Expose
Ward says a child needs to be exposed to a new food between 10 and 15 times before he or she will accept it. But many parents give up long before that, thinking their child just doesn't like it, she says. So even if your child only plays with the strawberry on her plate, don't give up. One day she just may surprise you by taking a bite. However, don't go overboard and try to introduce three new foods at every meal, says Severe. Limit exposure to one or two new foods a week.
6. Don't Bribe
Avoid using sweets as a bribe to get kids to eat something else, says Pawel. Doing so can send the message that doing the right thing should involve an external reward. The real reward of sound nutrition is a healthy body, not a chocolate cupcake.
7. Beware of Over-Snacking
Sometimes the problem isn't that the child doesn't like new foods, but that they are already full, says Ward. "Kids can consume a lot of their calories as milk and juice."
The same goes for snacks that provide little more than calories, such as chips, sweets, and sodas. "If you are going to offer snacks, make sure they are supplementing meals, not sabotaging them," she says.
8. Establish Bottom-Line Limits
Having a set of bottom-line limits can help a parent provide some consistency, says Pawel. For example, some parents may require that kids eat nutritious foods before snack food. Or that they must at least try a new food before rejecting it.
"Consistency only works if what you are doing in the first place is reasonable," she says. So try to avoid overly controlling or overly permissive rules. If bottom-line limits are healthy, effective, and balanced, they'll pay off.
9. Examine Your Role Model
Make sure you aren't asking kids to "do as I say, not as I do," says Pawel. If your own diet is based mainly on fat, sugar, and salt, you can hardly expect your child to embrace a dinner salad over fries.