In part two of our series on child nutrition and food habits, PHN pediatrician Dr. Corinne Brooks has some advice on how to help your children try new foods and consume a wide variety of healthy foods!If mealtime is frustrating and stressful, here are some tips to avoid the power struggle and help encourage a balanced diet. – Young children often touch or smell new foods, and might even put tiny bits in their mouths and then take them back out again. This is okay! Your child might need repeated exposure to a new food before he or she takes the first bite.- Get your kids involved! Let them decide which fruit or vegetable they want to accompany their meals. Include them in grocery shopping and have them help select fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. Don’t buy anything that you don’t want your child to eat. When at home, encourage your child to help you rinse veggies, mix the batter, or set the table. – Encourage your child by talking about the different characteristics of their food, such as color, shape, aroma and texture. Try not to focus on whether it tastes good. – When introducing a new food, serve it along with your child’s favorite foods.- Don’t be afraid to get creative and make it fun! Serve broccoli, carrots, and other veggies with a favorite dip or sauce. Cut foods into various fun shapes with cookie cutters. Offer breakfast foods for dinner. Serve a variety of brightly colored foods.- Set a good example. If you eat a variety of healthy foods, your child is more likely to follow your example. Many times children are more willing to try foods off of their parent’s plate rather than their own. – Schedule at least one meal per day together as a family. Research indicates that having a family dinner on a regular basis has positive effects. – Keep mealtimes “screen free”. Turn off the television and other electronic devices during meals. This will help your child focus on eating. Keep in mind that television advertising might also encourage your child to desire sugary or less nutritious foods.- Do not let your child “graze” all day. This can disrupt their ability to sense when they are hungry or full. – Drinks: You can provide milk or 100 percent juice with the food, but offer only water between meals and snacks. Allowing your child to fill up on juice, milk or snacks throughout the day might decrease his or her appetite for meals.- Snacks: Offer only healthy snacks, and do not offer snacks too close to mealtime to ensure that your child will be hungry when mealtime arrives. – Serve meals and snacks at about the same times every day. Children thrive off of routines. It can also be helpful to give your child a 5 minutes warning before mealtime to give them a moment to calm down, wash their hands, and transition to eating time.
Corinne Brooks, MD joined PHN in February 2017 and provides pediatric medicine services at Sandy Lake Community Health Center. Dr. Brooks earned her medical degree from the Ohio State University College of Medicine. She has a three-year-old daughter, a pug named Maggie, and being from Cleveland, she is a Cleveland Browns fan!