How to Get Your Children to Eat Healthy

Published 10/29 2013 01:00PM

Updated 10/29 2013 01:42PM

Babies seem to be enthusiastic about trying new foods until about two years old, then seemingly overnight they seem to develop a dislike what they once found satisfactory. Research has proven that the foods that are the most beneficial, such as fruits and vegetables, are the foods that are most rejected during this stage. Mothers know that it is vital to a child's development to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, but how can you get them to enjoy those foods and continue to enjoy them throughout their lifetime?

Several families have tried methods to get their children to eat these foods. Bribery might lead to them enjoying the sweet reward rather than the healthy alternative. Disguising the vegetables in other foods will never give them the chance to enjoy the taste of the individual vegetable and never know if they like it. If a parent displays anger or reprimand while trying to get their child to eat healthy foods, children start to associate certain foods with conflict and unhappiness and will avoid such foods at all costs. Most parents give up trying to get their child to eat a certain food if the child has rejected it on 3-5 occasions. What the research shows is that this is simply not enough to change preferences. Children aged from 2-5 years need to taste something between 10-15 times before it becomes familiar and accepted.

So what is the best way to help your child enjoy healthy foods and do it honestly? Researchers in the UK have conducted a study that has resulted in toddlers not only enjoying their fruits and vegetables, but were rewarded by the parents and they ended up liking the taste of these healthy foods more and more.

The study consisted of families that totaled out to about 196 children. All families were asked to select one vegetable that each child disliked. They were instructed to perform a simple test that measured how much of that vegetable the child would eat at the beginning of the study and again, 14 days later. For the next two weeks, families in the Tiny Tastes group offered children tastes of the selected vegetable every day. Kids could chose a sticker if they tried the vegetable.

Families in the comparison group were told to follow their usual approach to eating vegetables for two weeks. All families then completed a final test to see if there was any change in how kids felt about the vegetables. Parents chose vegetables such as red peppers, celery, cucumbers and carrots.

Of the 196 children who went through the Tiny Tastes program, the number who would eat the selected vegetable rose from 39 before the intervention, to 141 after the study. The comparison group showed little improvement, on the other hand. Only five of the kids who initially refused to eat their vegetable became willing to eat some or all of it. The results were published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The “Tiny Tastes” Study is a simple and a great bonding experience for your family. Want to try it? Here is what to do:

  • Choose a vegetable that you would like your child to eat and that you usually have in the house.

  • Tell your child that you are going to play a tasting game at snack time (or when s/he is moderately hungry)

  • Show your child the whole vegetable, name it and say that you are both going to have a tiny taste of it.

  • Cut a very small piece for yourself and a similar one for your child.

  • Try your piece and say how delicious it is.

  • Ask your child to taste their piece (if they won’t, tell them they can spit it out if they really don’t like it)

  • Give abundant praise if s/he tastes it.

  • Repeat with the same vegetable every day for 10 days minimum, up to 15 days.

  • Choose another vegetable and start again.

In a recent study, researchers found that children liked the vegetable more and ate much more of it after they had tasted it at least ten times. There is much more research during this study. If you would like to learn more about how to help your child choose healthy choices, visit the Tiny Tastes website.

Read more in the Tiny Tastes Article

Visit the Tiny Tastes Website

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