Parenting Challenge #1: I don’t care if Hannah Montana hates brussels sprouts, but what does make my child like or dislike a food? Sure, taste is a big factor, but there are so many other things at work. Our own tastes as parents, our childrens’ personal preferences as well as what their friends like, and, of course, what they see on television all affect the food decisions our children make. That’s why it incenses me when popular TV characters—role models for our children—shed a negative light on healthy foods. For instance, Hannah Montana says she hates Brussels sprouts in one of the shows’ episodes. Why is that funny?
WGBH, creators of Curious George on PBS Kids, receives many letters from parents saying that their kids love George and they eat so many bananas now because George does! But can George also eat broccoli?
They have a good point—those of us in the media have a responsibility to make sure that we model good choices. Messages like, “Try a new food, it might taste good!” are so important; they help get our little ones on the road to good, healthy habits!
When creating my television shows, my colleagues and I go to schools to talk to kids, teachers and parents to find out what concerns them, what interests them, and what they want in their programming. During these talks, parents often get around to talking about kids and their eating habits. A common complaint I hear: Many of their kids like to eat just one or two foods. Just like my daughter! She’s in her pasta phase. “Pasta pasta pasta pasta!”
In fact, my daughter inspired a whole new episode of Super Why, which will air this fall.
The story is about King Eddie who only wants to eat spaghetti. “Spaghetti, spaghetti, spaghetti!” In a light and humorous way, Super Why and the Super Readers introduce King Eddie to new foods. He tries them…and likes them! Now King Eddie is eating a well balanced diet with fruits, veggies, whole grains and protein. (Keep your eyes open; the show will air this fall!) Our only hope is that kids all over will be like King Eddie and try new foods!
In my own home, we’ve tried a few tricks to turn my daughters into the new King Eddie!
1 – Keep offering new foods. If he doesn’t like a food, don’t give up. Try again. It can take a long time to influence a palate. In fact, it might take as many as five tries before a child will accept a new food.
2 – Try all foods, especially veggies, in many different ways. A child may not like boiled vegetables (and really, who does?), but they may like roasted, baked, grilled or sautéed versions instead.
3 – Top new foods with a sprinkle. Sprinkling some sesame seeds, grated cheese, cinnamon or garlic salt on top of a new healthy food might make it more interesting and tasty for your child.
4 – Dip! Dipping makes everything more fun. Dip veggies in honey mustard or ranch dressing. Dip fruit in yogurt or applesauce. Dip turkey in a sweet and sour sauce. Be creative!
5 – Try sweet veggies. Sweet potatoes are a healthy, sweet option for kids. Cutting them up and roasting them to make “fries” is a great option or try mashing them; it makes a flavorful and nutritious mash.
6 – Everyone try something new! When parents make a big deal about trying something new, kids will be curious and more inclined to try! Test it out at your next meal.