So we were at a family reunion of sorts this weekend. Lots of kiddos around. It was amazing how many times the kids, M included were encouraged to eat something because, “it’s good for you!” or, my favorite, “it’s nutritious.” Ice-cream sundae time and M declined (politely) bananas with her vanilla ice-cream and chocolate sauce. After a few exhortations to accept them because they are “nutrititious” the kind server finally gave up. Alas, I felt I had to justify M’s refusal, and remarked that we had bananas at breakfast (we did, but why do I still have to justify? Why do I worry and feel on some level that my kid has to be the poster-child for good nutrition and eating just because I’m the feeding person?)
The point is, kids don’t eat food because it’s good for them, or nutrititous. You can shame the preschooler into eating something you want them to this time perhaps, but with the little ones especially, hold your tongue, sit on your hands when you feel “it’s good for you” about to come out of your mouth. Kids eat something because it tastes good to them. They can learn to like even hard-to-like foods, but trying to speed that process along with rational explanations of nutrition is more likely to slow the process. Kids who are especially sensitive to pressure or have been bribed, threatened etc can get turned off even by a simple, “it’s good for you.” (Think about it, when you see a “heart healthy” item on the menu are you more or less likely to order it? Do you assume it won’t taste as good as other choices on the menu? Studies have shown that simply having heart healthy choices on a menu makes adults more likely to chose “unhealthy” options. Maybe it’s the “you should” eat this that is the turn off…)
So, the next time your little one pops a piece of asparagus in her mouth, stay pleasant, you can mention, “Mommy likes asparagus with sauce, would you like some?” Then sit quietly, eat yours and keep her company. She’ll be more likely to try it the next time if you don’t launch into a nutrition lesson.
What do you think?