How do those little loves of ours go from being such good eaters to picky picky picky? One day they’re eating practically anything we put in front of them and the next it’s “Ewww.” “Yuck.” Or, as my girlfriend’s daughter would say, “No thank you, that is just too yummy for me.” Meaning “I am politely telling you NO.”
Kids’ tastes change over time. But they also pick up cues from those around them. They may like carrots just fine at home, but if their friends at school or daycare don’t, well, there must be something wrong with those orange sticks and, darn it, they aren’t going to be caught in the trap of eating something their friends are not.
Even worse, look around your house. Is everyone at home a good example of eating right? Choosing the healthy option over the sugary or salty version is a decision that starts with us. If Mom, Dad, Grandma or brother isn’t following suit, then it’s no wonder your little one is bucking green beans in favor of french fries.
Contrary to what we’ve heard, ketchup is not a vegetable. I tell my kids it’s nothing more than liquid candy. When you can teach kids to start looking at their foods that way, they will get it. But it won’t happen overnight.
If your little ones are young, the best way to avoid the situation is to avoid sugary and salty foods from the get-go. Processed foods are overly salted and sugared up because they taste better. But they leave us constantly wanting more. About two hours after we eat something sugary or salty, we simply want more on our taste buds.
If we avoid that from the start, then we don’t create that vicious cycle. But that involves understanding what we’re eating. Which means that things like barbecue sauce are also liquid candy and should be used very sparingly. Most salad dressings are nothing more than venues to deliver sugar, salt and fat. Same with dips. So, the things we “give” to our kids to get them to eat their veggies are the very things that cause the problems.
Rather than teach our kids to eat carrots covered in ranch dip, let’s teach them to dip their carrots in a healthy hummus or baba ganoush. Same concept. Much healthier. Better yet, teach them to eat the food whole. Straight. Carrots—plain and simple.
What’s amazing is after someone has sugar detoxed (or never started in on that cycle), that person will find that carrots are actually sweet. I mean really sweet. They only taste like a vegetable after we’ve corrupted our palates with candy, cane sugar and the like. That’s why it’s important we learn to start liking non-sugary and non-salty items. Instead of feeding our kids yogurt with “fruit” (code for added sugar), buy plain yogurt and stir in fresh fruit. Instead of juice to drink, teach our kids (and ourselves) to like water.
So how do we get there? I challenge you to get your child to eat a whole food today. No sauce. No dressing. Just a whole food. And here are a few tips and tricks to get you and them there.
Model the behavior. They see what you do and copy you.
Make it fun. Shopping, preparing meals and eating should be fun. Involve the kids, and they’re more likely to eat what’s on their plates.
Don’t lecture them. Nothing works less than a lecture. They will shut down. Trust me. I’m a college professor. When I lecture, at any age, they stop listening. Tell a story; it works much better. Or, just ignore the situation and go on with life as if nothing is different. It takes eight to 10 times for anyone to “try” a new food and grow accustomed to the taste, smell and texture.
Play with the food. If you can “decorate” their plate, make a design with the edamame, like a smiley face or a bull’s-eye. Whatever will resonate with your child.
Name the food something cool! A study from Cornell found calling carrots X-ray Vision Carrots got kids to eat 66 percent more carrots than when they were left unnamed. Kids between ages 8 and 11 ate Power Punch Broccoli and Silly Dilly Green Beans over plain old veggies.
So, it’s time to challenge yourself and the kids. Come up with some great names for the old standbys. Enlist older kids to help you come up with cool names for the veggies. And try out this one.
STRONG LIKE MOMMY EDAMAME (for very young kids)
JACK’s MAGIC BEANS (allows them to reach for the sky!)
Then, simply put some edamame on their plates and let them enjoy.