Moms have always told us to eat our vegetables, even though when we were younger, those vegetables were not so appealing to us. If your mom was anything like mine, you were nagged and was unable to leave the table unless you finished everything on your plate. If it was getting too late, and we did not finish what was on the plate, we did not get a free pass. Instead, it would be waiting for us in the morning. Yum, leftover dinner for breakfast. 

 

If there is one thing I have learned throughout my studies, it is that forcing a child to eat creates an unhealthy relationship with food. Instead, there are many other ways in having your child eat vegetables, or anything healthy that they may not like. It may require more work, but it is better than ruining the relationship with food. Forcing a child to eat can cause eating disorders, a desire to not eat, or create picky eaters. Nevertheless, they will associated eating with negativity. Vegetables and other foods are very important for our health, and our brain. It is important to have your children fall in love with food.

Be an example

It is important to share the same eating patterns with everyone in the house. If you have fast food everyday, or if your sibling is having fast food in front of your child, your child will want that. If that is common and vegetables are uncommon, it will be difficult for your child to ever eat vegetables. Children will eat what they are given, they eat what they are aware of. They will 

get used to what you give them, therefore, make it healthy. Children look up to you, show them that you love vegetables and enjoy them with every bite.

Have your child help

Children love to help you out, therefore, have them help with the dinner. They will feel so proud of themselves, and they will become more invested in the meal. Have them help you prepare the dinner, or go shopping for the supplies. Perhaps, even bring them on a trip to the farm to pick some fruits, or better yet, have your own garden and show them how to plant. If you give them the autonomy to pick an item or two that they want to have in the dinner. They will be too excited for their dinner that they will have difficulty waiting. Give them a task, even if it is setting the table. It will be gratifying for them.

Stay true to your word

Be careful with what you say. If you say something to a child, be sure to go through with what you say. You have to be honest and truthful with your child, keep your promises. If you do not, the child will have difficulty trusting you. If you tell them to just eat one broccoli, or to take just one bite of something, stay true to what you told them.

Positive reinforcement

Be sure to praise your child when they eat a type of food that they do not like. If you reward your child, they will want to try food every time. Never use food as a positive (even a negative) reinforcement. To use food as a positive reinforcement, you will have to pick something they like, which is often junk food, such as a cookie. For example, if they eat their broccoli, they will receive ice cream. If you do this, they will expect that food every time they take a bite out of a food that they do not like. This undermines the healthiness you are teaching your child, and it 

creates overeating. Children will feel the need to reward themselves even when they are not hungry. Since they will feel good about their reward, they will associate moods with what they eat. Since happiness is caused by their positive reinforcement, when they are feeling happy with themselves, they will go for sweets. Be sure to use rewards such as, stickers, going to the zoo, getting an extra thirty minutes of playtime before going to bed.

Make your meals visually appealing

Colours are everything for a child, the brighter and more colourful, the better. Be sure to have a lot of colours on your plate, and if you can, make a design. For example, round pancakes act as a face, a sliced banana as two eyes, blueberries as a smile, and sliced strawberries as the beams of the sun. Right there, you have what children will love. You can also shape food into different things, for example, mashed potatoes as a heart. We teach children not to play with their food, simply because that is our job.

Keep it fun

Children have a lot of imagination and creativity. You will always get a positive result if you make everything fun, or a game. Keep your meals visually appealing, the more colour the better. If you can do a design, even better. Broccoli is rarely a favourite for children, but if you make it a forest, now we are getting somewhere. Set the scene by giving your child a role to play. For example, have them become the forest monster who loves to eat trees. BUT, they have to eat four trees because society is coming to catch them and they have to have enough energy to run away from them and prevent being caught. This will become a fun game for the child, and will have them eat the four little trees you wanted them to have.

Rejection

If your child refuses to eat a specific food, be sure to find different ways in presenting the food. It is proven that for the child to accept the food, they must be exposed to it for at least 10 times. Do not lose patience, instead keep having them take one bite until they grow accustomed to the taste.

Never force your child

As mentioned earlier, never force your child to eat, or finish their meal. This creates an unhealthy relationship with food. Food is essential to our survival, therefore, do not ruin what is needed to survive for the child. Your job will become a lot more difficult if you ruin their relationship to food. Forcing your child to eat, or finish their plate will cause picky eaters, eating disorders, or a desire to not eat. Do not associate negativity to food. Be careful or you will find that you created a monster.

Speak in a way they will understand

It is important to see the world through your child’s eyes. Often times, children do not understand what parents are talking about, therefore, you must get at their level. Rather than explaining the nutritional value of food and explaining why they are healthy, be sure to speak to them in ways they will understand. For example, if your child wants to be a superhero, tell them that drinking milk will give them strong bones, meaning strength to save the world. Once you do that, they will immediately gulp that down.

Keep up the good work

Getting children to eat can be a difficult task; some children are more difficult than others. Regardless, it is important to keep your composure and patience. It is best to continue to introduce food that they do not like so that they grow accustomed to it. These tips are here to help you in helping your child eat healthy, and without any long term negative experiences. If you follow these steps, it will get easier. Keep it up, you are doing a great.

 

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