Concerned about the lack of green in your child’s diet? Relax, skipping veggies now doesn’t mean she has a doomed future. By Lisa Witepski
She’s turned her nose up to carrots, won’t waste a second on tomatoes and, frankly, if it doesn’t consist almost entirely of carbohydrates, she simply isn’t interested in eating it. Naturally, you’re worried – we all know that healthy eating habits start in childhood. But don’t waste too much time stressing. Here’s why.
New = scary
How comfortable do you feel when you face an entirely foreign situation? It’s the same for your child, even with something as simple as food. But, if you keep up your attempts to introduce new flavours and textures, you remove the strangeness. Experts tell us it takes over 10 tries before kids will accept a new food.
Children’s appetites fluctuate
How much of your eating is done to assuage a need unrelated to hunger? Remember that, unlike adults, kids don’t eat because they’re feeling bored, lonely or down – they eat because they’re hungry. And sometimes they’re just not hungry.
Beige food rules (for now)
Pasta, rice, white bread. They’re all pretty bland. They’re also easy to chew and swallow, and slightly sweet, which explains why they’re often the only food your child will eat. Fear not – as we’ve mentioned, it is possible to train her palate.
Hunger loves company
One of the best ways to encourage your child to eat is by inviting a friend to share the meal. In fact, you’ve probably seen this theory in action: ever noticed how the struggle is less intense when you’re at a big family braai? Dinner time play dates are an easy solution for this problem.
Pickiness is part of the process
At some point, the sweet baby who relied on you for everything has to learn to be independent. Sadly for you, chucking the broccoli you’ve lovingly prepared and shouting “no!” to everything else you suggest is part of this.
Mealtimes aren’t a natural scenario for toddlers
When do you know your little one to sit still? Never, right? You can’t expect mealtimes to be any different. You can overcome this challenge by keeping mealtimes under 30 minutes, and making sure the mood is light. That means not getting too confrontational when those veggies are rejected.
Sometimes it’s just about control
Toddlers are known for their stubbornness – so, if you criticise your child for being picky, she’ll feel like she has a point to prove. You’ll find the situation eases for both of you if you take a more relaxed approach.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.