5 Ways to Raise a Healthy & Adventurous Eater
Raising an adventurous eater is all about instilling healthy eating habits and a spirit of curiosity and exploration in your child at an early age. Adventurous eaters typically have an open mind and are willing to try new things. Here are five tips for parents on how to raise healthy and adventurous eaters, which will ultimately set them up for success in the future.
1. Introduce a variety of flavors and textures early on.
As a parent, you are your child’s primary outlet for trying new things. By offering a wide range of food flavors, textures and smells at a young age, you will promote an acceptance of new foods and develop their taste preferences. According to Russell Greenfield, M.D. and Clinical Professor of Medicine, UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine, repeated exposure (at least 8-10 times) during and between meals to various food textures and flavors in a positive environment promotes acceptance of new foods. Introducing a variety of fruits, vegetables and grains will encourage a love of healthy food from the start.
2. Read food labels.
It’s important to understand what is and what is not in the food you’re feeding your children. Many people find reading nutrition facts to be time-consuming and confusing, but it’s necessary to make informed choices and shape healthy eating habits. Look for food labels that contain words such as “certified organic,” “non-GMO” and “no artificial ingredients.” These benefits indicate that you are providing the best and cleanest ingredients that contribute to your child’s overall health.
3. Fresh is best.
Take your kids to the local farmer’s market to show them what fresh ingredients look like and the benefits of buying fresh and local. Not only is it good to support local farmers, but it can also be an informative and exciting adventure for the whole family. Engaging children in shopping and letting them pick out their own food may make them more willing to eat it and promotes a healthy palate.
4. Have fun with it.
Choosing and preparing healthy fare for your children and watching them not eat the food can be stressful for many parents. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, children pick up on parental stress, and it can manifest in different ways such as increased clinginess, tummy aches, or difficulty sleeping. “Coaxing a child to eat can backfire and actually negatively impact their food intake,” says Dr. Greenfield. “Parents should trust that as long as they are providing an appropriate amount of nutritious food to their child, the kids should not be hungry or malnourished.” Relax and try to keep things fun. This can be as simple as playing the tried and true “airplane game” with babies. For toddlers, you can get creative with the way you present healthy ingredients on their plate.
If your child won’t eat a new food you are introducing them to, don’t give up. Just because they aren’t ready for it this time doesn’t mean they won’t ever be. Keep trying. Just as it takes a few tries and some practice to ride a bike, it might take a few times before your baby or toddler gets used to certain flavors and textures. And don’t be discouraged if they grimace when eating a new food – this doesn’t always indicate dissatisfaction, it may only mean they aren’t quite used to a new taste or texture yet.
About Rick Klauser
Rick Klauser is the CEO at Sprout Foods. He provides tips on how to raise a healthy and adventurous eater