Children are known to hold strong opinions towards things that seem new or different to them, especially food. Because of this, introducing new foods to kids can prove to be a challenge. At the Y, we encourage children to experiment with nutrition, helping them to lead healthier lives.
Some negative food reactions are inevitable, but that doesn’t mean we should give up! To help support a positive taste-testing process, we’ve generated a list of guaranteed food failures that adults should avoid.
Don’t Use Descriptors for Children’s Eating Habits
- Calling children “picky eaters” may encourage them to continue to avoid healthy foods because they get the sense that you understand and accept their behavior.
- Don’t Make Demands
Pushing a child to try something may make them avoid it even more. Avoid using exasperated phrases like, “just try it.” Instead, teach kids why certain food choices are better than others.
- Don’t Introduce Punishments…
Taking something away from children if they refuse to eat a certain food can create a negative association with that specific food or food group. Seek to create a safe, welcoming environment that encourages kids to listen to their hunger cues.
- …or Rewards
Offering something for trying a food may prompt kids to establish an unhealthy relationship with that food. Also, they may learn to always expect a reward for trying a new food. A safe, welcoming environment will encourage kids to listen to their internal hunger cues.
- Don’t Shame Kids Who Can’t Access Healthy Foods
Not all children have access to fruits and vegetables while at home. Talking about these food groups as a “must eat” may make them feel excluded from conversations around healthy eating. If you’re an educator or camp counselor, you can teach children about the importance of fruits and vegetables in fun, age-appropriate ways, while also being considerate of the various cultures and income levels of the kids in your programs.
- Don’t Practice Negative Modeling
Anyone who has been told, “Try this, it’s gross!” knows such an approach is not a successful way to introduce food. Adults, like children, have their own food preferences, so make sure all of your verbal and nonverbal cues reflect positive modeling.