Sunday, March 4, 2012

Your Child is a Picky Eater. Are You Sure?

Yesterday I had an opportunity to represent Healthy Kids Inc at a local community event.  My goals were simple - to introduce Moms and Kids to HKI and let them sample a recipe from our website.

I chose Kale & Edamame Pesto Pasta.  Kale, known as one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet, is so rich in vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants.  Edamame is just as powerful with antioxidants, protein, vitamins, and fiber.  It's easy to see why this dish is an HKI favorite.

I was pumped for the day and couldn't wait to showcase this awesome dish.  Ding Ding's 10am.  Let the event begin.

The first child approached the table and offered to give it a try.   The noodles barely made it to her mouth before she gagged and quickly threw away her plate.  My heart fell to the floor.  It was all I could do to not pack up and go home in the first 5 minutes.

Fortunately, the tide shifted and the sampling went uphill from there.  Nearly 50 kids tried the pasta and guess what?  Only three didn't like it.  It was amazing!

I spent hours watching kids and parents interact over healthy eating and the experience was truly enlightening.   I heard over and over again from parents that their child is a picky eater and probably wouldn't like it.  Remarkably, the child tried it and more importantly, liked it.  Kids were using words like "delicious," "best pasta I've ever had," and "Mom, can we make this at home?"

Was there anything special about this pasta dish?  No!  In fact, it was a little bland and by the end of the day started to taste incredibly smokey (forgot to turn the heat off of the chafing dish).

A few things happened that contributed to the success of the day:

1.  Kids were able to try something new.   Most families circulate the same 7-10 dishes over and over again.  How often are our kids trying new foods?

2.  Kids often took Mom and Dad's lead.  95% of the time, if Mom ate it (and appeared to like it), the child ate it.

3.  Kids enjoyed knowing that they were trying something healthy.  The older kids found it "cool" to try a healthy dish.  In many cases, the older kids had more of an interest in healthy food than the parent.

3.  It was an upbeat and encouraging environment.  We celebrated their healthy bites with high fives, cheers, and pats on the back.

This event posed a few questions:

Can kids influence parents to make healthy eating changes at home?

Are we actually reinforcing "picky eating" habits by continually telling our children that they're picky eaters.

Do we sometimes give up too early because we, as parents, get discouraged?

Are we really serving as role models with our own eating habits?

Give these some thought.  I'll share my own ideas with you, and give you a few tips to overcome these challenges as we kickoff National Nutrition Month.

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