The Hippo


May 28, 2020








Picky no more
Easy ways to get kids eating healthy

By Ryan Lessard

From presentation and preparation to general attitude, there are a bunch of ways caregivers can make sure their picky tykes aren’t subsisting on junk foods.

The easiest way to keep your kids from snacking on sweets is to keep sweets out of the house altogether.
Emily Jacobs of Candia is a nutritionist and mother of two. When her kids, now teenagers, were smaller, she would limit the amount of processed and sugary food she kept on hand. When her hungry kids went scavenging, there were only healthier options to choose from.
“One of the challenges I think is providing alternatives to a lot of the foods that taste really good to them — things like soda and candy and sugary cereal, things that are really sweet,” Jacobs said. “How do you compete with that with whole foods, fresh fruits, vegetables, good sources of protein, good sources of fat?”
Make it fun
For small children especially, one of the best tricks to getting them to eat good food is to present it in colorful or fun ways. 
Jacobs had a tradition in her family where she would arrange plates of fruits and vegetables to look like rainbows. She would also supply some sources of protein, like cheese or peanut butter.  
She made it a rule that the kids had to eat those when they got home from school before they could eat anything else. By the time they’d filled up on the healthy snacks, they’d forgotten that they wanted potato chips or cookies.
Creating fun imagery or naming the food something silly can go a long way toward making it more appealing.
“Instead of handing a kid a whole apple and saying, ‘Here, eat this,’ you can cut it up into slices and there’s fun things you can do with apples to make them look like a flower [or] a picture,” Jacobs said.
She also recommends skewering fruits and veggies to make a kabob.
“Things like that can make it a little more fun,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs noted that kids have very sensitive taste buds and certain textures may be relatively difficult for them to handle at first. For this, Jacobs’ solution is the blender.
“One approach that often works really well is to make things that are pureed, like smoothies. You can call them shakes or soups that have lots of fruits and vegetables in them,” Jacobs said. “A kid may not try raw kale, but they’ll drink a smoothie that has kale in it.”
Jacobs recognizes that many caregivers don’t have time to go all out with their food presentation. Some easy-to-make mainstays like ants on a log (raisins on top of peanut butter spread on a stick of celery) can be made well before snack time and left in the fridge for the kids to grab when they’re hungry.
Make it a discovery
Dinner time shouldn’t be a battle of wills.
“If it becomes a battle, then that can definitely have a negative impact on their willingness to try new things in the future,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs said there are a few easy ways to avoid this.
To start with, parents should be eating the same healthy foods as the kids.
“You can’t be doing something different than you’re asking them to do,” Jacobs said.
Constantly exposing kids to new things is also key. If they hesitate to try something, don’t see it as a failure.
“Research has shown that kids need to be exposed to new foods many times before accepting them in some cases,” Jacobs said. “It should never be a battle. Don’t fight about it, but have them try it. And over time, their tastes will adapt and they will start to like new things.”
And it doesn’t hurt to give kids something like a yogurt dip to make certain vegetables more palatable.
In our culture, we often celebrate the steak and marginalize the asparagus. Jacobs recommends turning that convention on its head.
“Shift your paradigm a little bit,” Jacobs said. “Make fruits and vegetables the main focus of a meal or snack instead of [meats or carbs].” 

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