So many parents struggle with children who have a very limited selection of foods they will eat or very limited tastes they like. And we live in a society where all of our food is heavily processed, refined, full of sweeteners and chemicals.
It can be frustrating as one is trying to expand their child's palate, ensure they are getting proper nutrients and help them to learn to love the taste of a variety of foods…not just chicken nuggets and pancakes.
You know that Oh Lardy is passionate about real food and choosing nourishing ingredients for the foods we cook in our homes. Sometimes it can be hard to get your kids on board with this but you can get your children learn to eat real food and enjoy it!
Of course, the earlier you start, the better, as children's flavor preferences develop very early in life. Teaching children to taste and enjoy a variety of flavors is part and parcel with anything else we parents are trying to do, much like the French.
“The French believe that teaching a kid to eat is just as important as, and just as time consuming as, teaching them to read. When you teach a kid to read, you teach the alphabet, then words, sit with them, read with them. The French feel that way about eating. They have a long-term view. They also don’t get frustrated when there are bumps in the road. Some kids take longer to read than others, but they don’t give up and say “This kid is a picky eater, she just doesn’t like broccoli.” You don’t treat fear of foods as a personality trait, you treat it as a phase.” –Bon Appetit/Karen LeBillon
This sounds like a tall task, especially here in the United States. But, teaching your child to have broad flavor preferences will only help them as they grow to be adults.
I have been reading a new book, Feeding Baby, written by fellow blogger and Registered Dietician, Clancy Harrison. It covers everything you need to know to help raise a healthy baby and create a lifetime of nutritious eating. Clancy covers quite a bit of ground in this book: how to develop taste preference, how to prevent picky eaters, best foods for first meals and nourishing food choices for the years beyond. She also includes over 130 pages full of recipes!
My favorite part of the book, though, focuses on teaching flavor preferences. I really think that most of the pickiness we see in children today can be prevented if they are taught early on. We spend countless hours teaching our children to recognize letters and colors, to sort objects, to play with blocks and puzzles. Yet we spend almost no time teaching children to appreciate food.
“Teaching your child to taste real food from the beginning will carry through their lives. The taste of real food will help them grow into healthy adults seeking foods full of flavor, spice, savory, and nutrients.” Fields of Flavor/Clancy Harrison
How to Develop Flavor Preferences in Your Child
Of course, the early you start the easier this will be but some of these can be used in later years. Here are 6 of Clancy's 10 tips for getting your child to develop their taste. There are more in the book!
1. Add small amounts of flavor to baby food (commercial or homemade).
2. Throw out processed food and replace them with natural whole foods.
3. Replace sugar with fresh herbs in your entire family's food.
4. Let your infant (6-24 months) explore her food at the table while feeding. Encourage self-feeding and exploration of foods without the pressure to eat them.
5. Eat a variety of flavors while pregnant and breastfeeding
6. Breastfeed exclusively for at least 6 months. -Clancy Harrison in Feeding Baby
I would add another to the list…FERMENTED FOODS!
7. Add fermented foods to the diet. For a breastfeeding infant, you can put the juice from fermented sauerkraut or other vegetables on your nipple or the nipple of a bottle. Once the baby is eating solids, you can puree fermented vegetables and feed those to the child. Not only will the fermented foods add a good dose of probiotics to the child, but will help the child develop the taste for bitter and sour foods and can even decrease sweet cravings.
What about you? Have you done anything to get your children to develop their flavor preferences? What worked? What was a struggle? Let us know in the comments!
I agree, we need to treat most of children’s food aversions as a phase. How many times have I heard a parent say “They just don’t eat vegetables?” Neither do mine at times. But I present it at every meal. They could go six months without touching a green bean and then all of a sudden they love it again, followed by a period where they won’t touch it again, and so on and so forth. It took me awhile to realize this pattern, and I constantly remind myself not to give up. It’s working! I thought my two year old would never ever be as good an eater as her older brother is, but she’s surprising me. I’m glad I justkept putting the food on her plate!
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Thank you Oh Lardy!
Flavouring with herbs is such a natural and gentle way to bring out flavours. My little ones love taking chopped fresh herbs from a bowl and sprinkling on their food. Even if they only take the tiniest amount it introduces great tastes and they enjoy doing it too. Thanks for sharing this lovely article. Naturally delicious 🙂
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What about older children who have already started being picky? How can i reverse it?