“Nutrition Newbie” is a series focused on basic nutrition information and tips.

Special Blog Post By: Diana Garcia, Nutrition Education Coordinator, Santa Clara County

Nutrition Newbie Photo- edited for blog

Often when I educate the community on nutrition topics, parents express their frustration about their kids not being receptive to new foods or being too selective with meals and snacks. I feel the same way every day with my six year old son, but I have come to understand that patience and perseverance pay off. Parenting requires us to be creative in many areas, including in the kitchen. I’m not talking about making elaborate figures with cucumbers and carrots (although you can!), but I think there are easier ways to get children excited about trying new foods. Below are some ideas that you can start incorporating today:

  • Rules, fun rules: Many of our long-term eating habits are created in childhood, so it is important to help our children associate meal times with a pleasant experience where connection and mindfulness prevail. Each family is different and children should be involved in creating the rules or having their ideas considered. Examples of rules can include: No electronics or toys at the table; Washing hands before meals; Everyone helping with something around meal time (i.e, setting up the table); Everyone sharing something from their day;  Everyone taste all the food served before deciding they don’t like it. Rules add predictability and structure to meals and help children feel secure and cared for, and in this case, like their opinions matter.
  • Shop, prepare, cook, serve: Kids love to help, especially when they feel that more responsibility is given to them, so take this opportunity to invite your children to the farmer’s market or to the grocery store, encourage them to pick a new fruit or vegetable and look for a recipe together. Give your child a responsibility; it could be anything from scooping out the seeds of a butternut squash to peeling or cutting a soft part of a vegetable with a plastic knife. Encourage them to create their own recipes and to use their intuition to come up with tasty options, the more exposure children have to nutritious options, the more receptive they will be when offered new foods.
  • Plant the seed to raise a healthy eater: A new Cornell study published in Acta Paediatrica shows that children who have edible gardens at their schools are more prone to eat vegetables. This also works at home and you don’t need a big back yard to plant a few herbs or veggies. The great thing about planting is that you can really work with your own space. Carrots, beets and garlic are good examples of vegetables that you can grow indoors. However, if you have a back yard, the sky is the limit; you can plant tomatoes, cucumbers, mint, cucumber, zucchini and many more great options.

As parents we have the power to shape our children’s behavior, work with your support group to reinforce rules and to set a good example for your little ones, so they are better equipped to make good food choices.

***Catch up on our past Nutrition Newbie posts.