If they catered to their child's whims, some parents would build a menu around chicken nuggets, spaghetti… and more chicken nuggets!
But, as much for their he alth as to help them develop their tastes, this kind of menu is not desirable. How to deal with a difficult child?
Appreciating food can be learned
Loving sweet and s alty flavors is innate. Appreciating bitter and sour stems from an apprenticeship. There are several reasons why some children are reluctant to try new foods.
- It is natural for many children to first reject a new food (this is called “neophobia”) and then to tame it at their own pace.
- The sensory sensors present in the mouths of babies are more numerous and more sensitive than those of adults. This makes their taste experiences more intense.
- The chewing ability of young children is limited. Textures are often a barrier to their enjoyment of certain grainy, crunchy or fibrous foods.
On average, a child needs 7 “contacts” with a new food to eat it and appreciate it. For some, it will take twice as much. Keephope and keep introducing new foods to your child. It is through repetition that a food becomes familiar.
Key ingredient: pleasure
The context in which a food experience takes place influences whether or not the child wants to repeat it. It must therefore be positive.
- Don't force it. Just introduce the food and offer to taste it.
- Tell your child that this is a “big boy” food and that they may still be too young to appreciate it. His interest may be heightened!
- Eat the unsung foods yourself, and show your appreciation. Lead by example!
Only one menu
To “buy peace” and out of concern for a child to eat enough, a parent might be tempted to prepare a special meal for him. This solution – in the short term – is to be avoided, because it risks encouraging his refractory attitude. In the long term, the child may become increasingly demanding and difficult. Here are some "tips" to facilitate the introduction of new foods and enhance discoveries:
- Introduce only one new food per meal, so that the child feels confident and has enough to satisfy his hunger if he does not like the “intruder”!
- Involve your child in choosing and preparing meals. If he himself put a new vegetable in the grocery cart or poured ingredients into the recipe, he will be proud and more likely to taste it.
- Garnish his plate with at least two different vegetables so he feels he has a choice…and some power!
- Cut the new food into small bite-size pieces so that the child knows that they can gradually become accustomed to it.
- Avoid snacking less than 2 hours before a meal; everything tastes better when you're really hungry.
- Offer him a dessert (one serving, not 2 or 3 though) even if he doesn't clear his plate. Avoid presenting the dessert as a reward, as this may fuel his negative opinion of the main course.
- Encourage your child, praise them for their efforts, and avoid food-related criticism and punishment.
Dessert can be an opportunity to complete an unbalanced meal. If your child has not eaten his vegetables, offer him a fresh and colorful fruit salad. If he has refused his meat, consider yogurt, a glass of milk or a tofu mousse to provide him with protein. If he left his pasta or rice intact, a homemade muffin will be the "representative" of grain products.
Children are sometimes unpredictable. They may like a food one day and refuse to eat it a few days later. Do not put too much pressure on your little “weather vane” and continue to offer a varied menu. The eating habits he was exposed to in early childhood will influence him throughout his life.