We can get into food ruts and comfort zones when we finally find something our child will eat. “Just give her a cheese stick, she’ll at least eat that…” has rolled off my tongue a few more times than I would like to admit. Even if the food is healthy, eating the same thing over and over again will actually stall the adventurous eater in your child. There will also come the time when they will eventually refuse that food, because they are simply tired of it, and you will find yourself asking, “Now what?”
So… Now what?
Some questions you can ask yourself:
- Have you been feeding that item multiple times that week?
- Have you been serving it the same way every time? (because that’s how she has liked it)
- What has been the variety in foods you’ve been serving that week?
There are days when your child could just not be in the mood for that food. Or they may have been overserved where they are bored with it, or the way it’s being prepared. Below are some super simple & doable tips that can help you solve the problem of “Mom! I don’t like spinach anymore!” The word to keep in mind is variety.
- Using a few ingredients that week but in various ways
Cinnamon is a wonderful and beneficial spice that you can use in so many ways. Your child can be your coffee buddy with a mug of warmed almond milk, a touch of honey and cinnamon. You can also put cinnamon in their smoothie. I have also put cinnamon in Brooklyn’s carrot ginger soup, which makes it extra toasty.
- Perhaps your child is bored with avocado?
I’ve mashed it like guacamole and sprinkled sea salt on top. Smeared it on whole grain toast. Cut it into boats and wrapped smoked salmon around it (bonus protein!). Put it in a blender with some fruit and plain yogurt and make popsicles. Create a nutritious chocolate pudding with avocado (recipe on my website!).
- When meal planning or creating your grocery list- focus on adding new items each week
Rotate some new things into your list and have your children help you with this. You can always spend an hour writing down different fruits, veggies, protein, and healthy fats on small pieces of paper where you can draw your choices out each week.
I bet you have some great ideas on how to get more variety in your kitchen. After all, variety is the spice of life! You’re doing a great job and I hope these tips help amp up your game. You can get even more tips by downloading my FREE E-Book, “Discovering The Adventurous Eater in Your Child” on this website.
Brooklyn is a child that really gravitates toward reward and seeing the progress of what she does. When we are figuring out what motivates our children, paying attention to what they respond to is essential to this. Your child is unique, and only you know what they respond to. It’s similar to the book “The 5 Love Languages” that you’ve read to figure out yourself and your partner.
There came a time with Brooklyn where I was at a loss of how to just get her to TASTE a new food. When I was writing “I Tried It”, something came to mind when I was figuring out ways that Brooklyn could motivate her friends to not be so apprehensive about trying a new food. I decided to try it on Brooklyn to see if it could actually work- at least 50% of the time.
I created our “I Tried It!” card, which is a very simple way to entice and celebrate being adventurous with eating. Plus it’s super simple which was my goal. The card has 12 spots on the back where each time your child tries a new food, they get a sticker to place in the square. What’s even better, and will gain more results, is the no pressure vibe in this game. Even if your child doesn’t like the food, they still get a sticker. Because your child will not like everything, just like you don’t. What’s important is them putting it in their mouth, tasting it, feeling the texture, and being introduced to it. That small celebration builds to larger celebrations. When the card is filled, they get to choose something special to do with their family. Brooklyn is already planning her summer out and all the fun things we are going to do together as a family.
The “I Tried It!” card will be available to your family during my April presale. The card is thick and glossy where you can reuse the card over and over again. Simple smiley face stickers, or stickers your child chooses, are easy to get at your local dollar store. I hope you will invite this book into your lives, and this fun way of getting your child to be excited about trying new foods. Thank you for reading!
P.S. Here are images of the front and back of the “I Tried It!” card. The card is right on the refrigerator so Brooklyn can see it every time she’s at the family table. “Mama! I want a sticker so I’m going to try this salad dressing!” That’s all I ask for kid, that’s all I need.
It starts with a spoon pushed off the high chair. Perhaps some food is thrown on the floor. Or even better, thrown AT you. Some may experience food actually being spit out and spraying all over your shirt. At first it may seem cute and even laughable, but your reaction to their behavior is going to have the biggest influence on them continuing the behavior. Or not. No judgment here, Brooklyn has had her share of us laughing or getting upset with her. Oh yes, even a negative reaction allows the behavior to continue… or get worse.
So what to do when your toddler- or even your 4 year old- thinks meal time is a game or has trouble expressing their frustrations? The solution is very simple: a very BORING reaction. OK, so what exactly is an example of that? Here are 2 from 2 different age groups and situations:
- Fiona is 2 and in her high chair. She is discovering her motor skills and strength are improving. She wants to practice and show off those skills! She also wants to have some fun. You know this game. Fiona looks at you in an oh-so-cute way and slowly starts pushing her spoon off her tray. “Uh uh Fiona… no, no, no…” is your initial response, with a smile, as she keeps pushing that spoon. You think she is so adorable and your face and tone show it. She keeps pushing it, pushing it, and OOOPS! “Uh Oh Fiona!” and everyone giggles and Fiona thinks “How fun! Not only am I cute but I’m making people laugh!” The focus is off the meal and she continues the behavior to get the reaction she gets from the table. Instead, let’s try the boring reaction approach. Instead of cutesy comments, a smile, and a “ready to play” approach, when Fiona starts pushing that spoon and looks at all of you with that smile- don’t react at all. Keep eating as a family, doing what you’re doing, and don’t even look at what she’s doing. If that spoon goes off that tray and onto the floor, pick it up in a calm way, put it on her tray, look in her eyes and tell her, “Fiona, the spoon is for eating and stays on the tray.” If she does it again, same thing but add “Fiona, the next time you push the spoon off your tray, the spoon goes away.” Keep on doing your thing. That third time, say “Fiona, the spoon stays on the tray and this time it goes away.” She can figure out a way to eat her meal without the spoon. This boring reaction approach isn’t that easy though. It takes consistency and patience. The results won’t happen overnight.
- Let’s say you have the 4-year-old that is very expressive, independent, and knows what he wants. And tells you! It’s OK for him to express his feelings and his choices, but that doesn’t mean you need to react in a way that will allow him to manipulate meal time. So when Ben tells you “I don’t like this! I don’t want a salad!”, you take the boring reaction approach that I do with Brooklyn. “Ben, it’s your choice to not eat your salad. This is our dinner and you have a choice to eat it or not.” Leave it at that. Don’t make a big deal. Don’t beg. Don’t plead. Don’t negotiate. And definitely don’t get up to make something else for Ben.
The boring reaction approach when it comes to behavior at the table can actually create an adventurous eater with consistency, patience, and time. The trick with this technique is they look at your boring reaction as a consequence. They want a rise out of you. They want to see you flustered and catering to them. What’s healthy for them, and YOU, is to still acknowledge and teach but in a way that will gain positive results.
Wishing you a positive family table with less mess and stress!
This super easy and fast treat is full of protein, fiber, flavor and texture. I won’t go into a super long story about making it… it’s all about dumping, mixing, and putting it in the fridge. Short & sweet.
1 1/2 c of almond or coconut milk
1/3 c of chia seeds
1/4 c of cocoa powder
2 T of maple syrup
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 tsp of cinnamon
Stir and put in the fridge overnight… or at least 4 hours
You can add things like bananas, walnuts, strawberries or apples to the pudding for extra oomph. Enjoy as a pop by putting in molds and freezing overnight.
That’s it! Short and deliciously sweet.
Getting your kids involved in the kitchen is one of the top ways to bring out the adventurous eater in your child. Being a part of the show will grow their confidence, excitement and they will want to try & be a part of the applause. You may be thinking more about how challenging it is to have your kids “help” but in reality the rewards far outnumber the few annoyances or extra clean up you may have. What’s even better is there are so many ways you can involve your child in the meal. Today I’ll be talking about something that may seem a bit scary but your child is actually quite capable of doing.
The act of chopping and slicing can be a fun way for your child to help prepare the meal. There are wonderful child-friendly knives out there that you can make a part of your kitchen. My favorite has been from StarPack and you can get their 3-piece knife set on Amazon here: StarPack 3-Piece Knife Set The knives are made out of nylon and actually cut pretty well. Here are some tips to get you and your budding chef started with confidence in the kitchen:
- A non-stick cutting board. We have loved our cutting boards from D-FLIFE on Amazon: D-FLIFE Kids Cutting Boards
- Tip of the knife always stays on the cutting board
- Close-toed shoes
- No rushing – make sure you have made enough time (and double that!) and are not starving
- Teaching them to hold the knife properly and curling the fingers in with the hand holding the food will start them on a great path
- I recommend that you start with softer items such as bananas, avocado, or tomatoes which will allow them to get some safe knife skills and gain confidence in some easier items before moving to more challenging
- When you graduate to more challenging foods, start by cutting them into easier sizes first. For example, with a cucumber, I started by slicing it into 1” discs where Brooklyn then cut those. The better her skills get, the more challenges I place in front of her
I hope these tips can put your mind at ease and create confidence in yourself as a parent. You giving your child that power of participation will be such a gift to them with being involved and being more willing to try the wonderful foods you make as a family. Wellness is more successful when we focus on those first 2 letters of the word: WE. I’m excited to share more tips with you on how you can involve your children in the wonderful world of culinary creation. Come on over to my Instagram page, @michellemansfieldfamilyhealth on Tuesday, February 27, 8pm CST for my LIVE discussion of ways to involve your kids with mealtime. Submit any questions you have before the LIVE or simply join in and ask away. Hope to see you there!