My friend was complaining to me the other day that her son is a really picky eater and that he wouldn’t even try a vegetable. She doesn’t want dinner time to be stressful so she generally lets him eat something separate from the rest of the family. Often he will have a sandwich that is only bread and meat or a bowl of cereal when the family eats dinner.
I asked her where he learned the eating habits from. She said she didn’t know but he has strong preferences for what he does and doesn’t like. I had to laugh because I know where he gets his eating habits from but had to phrase a bit more nicely than what I was actually thinking. Your kids learn what they see. Sure you may eat a vegetable at dinner but they see what you are eating throughout the day.
They see what you order when you eat dinner out and what snacks you prefer. So what are you teaching your children by example? My mother had a wicked sweet tooth but she also ate vegetables during the day. We got fruit with lunch, salad and a vegetable with dinner. I also didn’t have a choice, you ate or you didn’t. Hardcore? Maybe but we also didn’t have to eat something we absolutely hated.
That may very well be because watching me gagging on lima beans grossed both of my parents out. I really can’t think of vegetable I hated more than lima beans, although cooked green beans are a close second. I do try them periodically when someone makes them but I still don’t care for them. (I will in lima beans in pasta fagioli, it’s pretty much the only way I can stand them. I still prefer cannellini or fava beans).
A wise friend told me it’s her job to introduce foods to her son and to keep putting a little bit of them on his plate. It wasn’t her job to force him to eat them but to put them consistently on his radar. That makes sense, forcing would reinforce the hatred of the vegetable. But by used to them he will eventually start eating some of them.
A client of mine started changing her eating habits. Her children noticed, her son ordered a salad over french fries when the went out to eat. She was so proud of him but I was proud of her. He most likely would not have made that choice if he did not see her ordering a healthier dinner. She was empowering her family to eat better as well.
This can work even if you aren’t the parent. Be the cool aunt, uncle or friend who shows how foods can be yummy and healthy. I came home after spending time with my grandma and asked that my mother buy cantaloupe, something my mother hated. I also learned to like asparagus and artichokes from my dad’s sister.
So what are you teaching your children? Making small changes in your eating habits will have a big impact on theirs.
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