Extension Agent: Take leap of taste
Getting kids to try new foods, especially vegetables or fruits, can be a struggle. But fruits and vegetables should be offered to children every day because they provide nutrients vital for a growing child. Below are some tips for helping children to explore new foods:• Offer new foods up to 10 or 11 times so children have plenty of opportunities to decide to try unfamiliar foods. Be an example to your child by eating a balanced diet containing assorted fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy foods. Children imitate their parents and other adults. If you want them to try new foods, make sure you are doing the same thing.
• Offer your child several healthy choices, and let them pick which one they want to try. When children get to choose what to eat, they have a sense of responsibility and control, and they will be more willing to try something new. And you can still be assured that they are getting something nutritious because you are the one deciding what they get to choose from.
• Let your child pick a color or letter of the day and offer them interesting new foods from that category. For example, if your child picks the color yellow, you can offer them starfruit, tapioca, butternut squash or hummus. Remember to be a good example, and try the food along with them.
• Create a positive environment. Children will eat less and tend to dislike foods when meal times are emotionally upsetting. Your kids will be more willing to try new foods and develop healthy eating habits when you create a positive atmosphere during meals. For example, do not scold a child who does not want to try new foods at mealtimes.
• Children are more likely to want to try new foods when they have helped with growing them, picking them out at the store or preparing them. So, let your child pick out a new veggie for the whole family to try, and have them help with preparing it. Consider naming a dish after the child who helped prepare it - they will be more likely to try something new if it is named after them.
• Kids love anything they can dip, so take advantage of it. Yellow or orange bell pepper slices, fresh sugar snap peas or bright red cherry tomatoes will be more appealing to try if there is a yummy dip to go with them. Mix low-fat plain yogurt with a bit of dry ranch dressing mix to make a veggie dip with lots of flavor and little fat. For a sweet dip to try with new fruits, mix a bit of cinnamon or honey into low-fat vanilla yogurt.
Brenda Phipps is a Victoria County extension assistant.