Modeling healthy eating habits can be the difference between dealing with picky eaters and having well-adjusted, easy eaters on your hands. It's common for children, especially when they are babies, to make faces or to be unsure of new foods that are introduced to them. Whether it's a taste, texture or downright unfamiliarity, a baby or toddlers reaction to new foods is going to run the gamut.
Kansas State University professor Richard Rosenkranz, who specializes in food, nutrition, dietetics and health, says that children actually get used to the presence of vegetables in the womb. This means that if pregnant women incorporate vegetables such as kale or Brussels sprouts into their dietary makeup when they are pregnant, when it's time for their baby to begin eating pureed foods, they'll be more apt to tolerate them.
Moms can influence what their babies are more susceptible to eat from the very beginning, even before they are brought into the world. Rosenkranz says that even when the baby is a mere embryo it is constantly obtaining information from the world outside of the womb. The foods that it is exposed to in utero are painting that elaborate framework when it comes to their malleable pallets as time goes on.
Mindful Of The Veggies
Once the little ones are here, it's important to model specific behaviors for them. At as young as six months, babies are aware of what their parents eat. If they see someone that cares for them eating a bitter vegetable, they will be more apt to eat it as well. At a very young age they can detect when certain eating behaviors are normal or not.
We're being watched by our kids from very young ages, says Rosenkranz. Babies start to think, 'Why does he keep putting this stuff in front of me, but he never eats it?' He suggests that parents be very mindful of the veggies that they consume and to do it in front of their child as often as possible.
The professor thinks that starting with the sweet vegetables is the best option as human beings of all ages tend to react more favorably to sweeter tastes than bitter. Corn or carrots is a good place to start. In order to develop motor skills, parents are encouraged to chop up little bite-sized pieces of carrots for them to pick up and little pieces of corn they can eat kernel by kernel. If you cut fresh vegetables into fun shapes or use grape tomatoes for eyes, suddenly the kids are taking something healthy they never would have eaten and actually enjoying it, Rosenkranz added.
It's also incredibly helpful to incorporate your children into the food preparation and cooking processes in the kitchen as early as kindergarten so you can help them understand the importance of healthy choices.