Giving children exposure to foods can be an important way to create good eaters. As a mother of now five children, figuring out how to feed them, and feed them well, has been occupying the majority of my thoughts and a large portion of my time. I’m breastfeeding my youngest two twin boys but I have a two-year-old, four-year-old, and six-year-old that all must eat regular solid foods. On most evenings, the exhaustion of the day sets in and I often wonder why it is we were created to eat—and eat so often! It can truly be an arduous task for most parents.
My two-year-old, a spunky girl now figuring out her boundaries and emotions has been my pickiest eater by far. I attribute that to her individual likes and dislikes but I also take responsibility for not exposing her to a wider variety of foods as she has grown. As the third child, I was sometimes relieved when her older siblings handed her a cup of cereal to snack on so that I could get something else done. And does she ever love cereal. It’s funny though, one of her first foods was kimchi fried rice. I still remember how big her eyes got when she tasted it and how she remarkably handled eating it so well. She loves most savory foods to this day, but one of the most challenging types of food for her is fruit! She picks it out of foods and will not eat it fresh. You can see my stress building now can’t you? Fruit is an important part of a healthy diet! I took to quality supplements to help give her some support and have still been working to expose her to different types of fruit with the hopes that she will want to try them.
Progress. Just the other night, we served cake with our dinner. She wanted another fork for her cake so she was handed the serving fork that was used for the melon. We watched in private anticipation as she assessed the fork knowing it had touched the garden-grown watermelon and cantaloupe which she had pointedly avoided on her own plate. Then she did the unthinkable. She licked the fork! With her characteristic nod of approvement, she exclaimed, “hmm melon”…and then proceeded to eat her cake. But hey, I’m calling it a win. I have hope that one day she will be eating hordes of melon with the rest of us.
Serving a variety of foods family-style can be great way to give kids exposure to foods by allowing them to see and then choose what to put on their own plates. With young children who can’t yet serve themselves, however, it is helpful to pre-plate meals serving small age-appropriate portions of all foods. Remember to then honor their responsibility of choosing what they’re actually going to put in their mouth. But it’s all about that repeated exposure and doing your best to provide a stress-free eating environment (sometimes through gritted teeth when they reject your hours of planning and preparation). Never become a short-order cook (or cereal pourer). Eating the same foods as a family can be important to creating healthy, mature eating habits. “If mom or dad are eating this maybe I’ll try it this time.” And remember, even licking the residual juice from the melon fork can be counted as a step in the right direction.
Molly Roemer graduated with a degree in dietetics from BYU and currently resides in Alamo. She enjoys food and family and seeks to enrich the lives of others through both. Follow her on Instagram @_mealswithmolly_