Kathleen’s Post: Engaging Kids with Food!

spinachI am asked this question a lot: “So, what are you going to do after you graduate?”

And although I don’t have any one specific job locked down (yet!), I always say: “I know I’m going to work with kids, food and the community.”

Working with kids and engaging them with healthy eating is one of my favorite things. It’s amazing to watch their faces light up when they try something for the first time. Usually kids are conquering a fear of trying a new vegetable or food and are delighted when they learn they enjoy the taste.

Finding foods that kids will be inclined to try is always the hard part. I sympathize with parents who are trying to provide well rounded meals only to have many of the ingredients picked around, sometimes thrown, or given an unhappy face. Through one of the nutrition courses I am taking currently at UNH called Nutrition Through the Life Cycles, I have gathered some tips that may help encourage your kiddos’ at home to try more things!

1. When introducing one new food, always make sure it is served with a familiar food that the child enjoys. By doing this the child associates the new food with a food they really like. For example, if your child enjoys mashed potatoes and you are looking to introduce a new meat, serve the meat with mashed potatoes!

2. Since kids tend to be fairly sensitive to texture it’s important to provide an array of textures such as 1 soft, 1 crisp and 1 chewy.

3. Color can also be a very useful tool when encouraging kids to try different foods. Green, yellow, orange and pinks are great colors to use when putting together a vibrant dish for kids to try. This also doesn’t have to apply directly to the type of food you are serving, either. By serving foods in colorful dishware, using bright placemats or silverware, you child might be more inclined to want to eat!

4. Encourage kids to pick out their own vegetables while shopping in the grocery store or at the farmers’ market.

5. When making meals at home, ask your child to help to prepare it with you. It’s a learning experience for them and they might be more willing to try the finished product.

6. Introduce them to the “growing” process! Bring them to farms, start a small garden of your own, or even simply place the bottoms of your romaine in a small glass of water for them to watch grow.

Kids do well with engaging in activities, especially those that involve hands-on work. Make eating fun and enjoyable by making your child part of the process!

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