Convincing a child to eat healthy food is an arduous task for most parents. While parents play the most important role in forming the culinary preferences of a child; a study by British scientists has also found that forcing children to eat healthy will only make them hate certain foods rather than like it. Some children also have neophobia, which is a fear of anything new and this includes new food as well and forcing them to eat “healthy” food will only make things worse. According to experts the majority of methods used by parents to convince their children to adopt a healthy eating routine is more inefficient than useful, and can even be harmful for the child’s health.
Tantrums about food usually start when a child is aged between 18 and 24 months. At this age, children are already used to various kinds of food and begin choosing the ones they consider tastier. When parents limit the so called “harmful” foods that a children love, it simply increases the child’s desire for and predilection towards the particular food. Forcing children to eat healthy food will only make them more unwilling to eat it and offering them sweets, junk food or other “unhealthy” food as treats will only make the healthy meal even less attractive.
Child psychology experts advise parents to deal with their children patiently when trying to introduce new food to them. Frequent introduction of the new healthy variety of food will help the child gradually ease into their new diet.
In addition to being patient and non-forceful, some of these tips may be useful when dealing with children who refuse to eat healthy food.
- Don’t make eating a chore and concentrate on keeping meal times pleasant so it does not become unbearable for your child. If your child refuses a meal, let it go and do not make too big a deal out of it.
- Role models have a great influence on children and they will be more willing to try new kinds of food if they see their parents, siblings or peers enjoying the same food. It is important for the family to sit down together at meal time so that younger children can see their older siblings and parents enjoy healthy meals.
- When you introduce new kinds of food into a child’s diet of the child, do so persistently. Continue to encourage them to try the new healthy food without forcing them.
- The best way to make your child eat healthy food is by means ofpresentation. For example, you can make use of colorful sauces to decorate the food plate with cute smiley faces or any kind of cartoon that attracts your child. This will create a level of interest in the child and will also increase the child’s excitement at meal times.
- Do not ban unhealthy foods entirely or your child will become even more resentful about eating nutritious food. Allow them to indulge within limits.
- Rewards work well with children and could be a good way to encourage them to adopt a healthy diet. However instead of offering sweets or junk food as reward, it is better to offer an inedible prize like a toy. This is so the child continues to eat healthy without getting addicted to an unhealthy diet at the same time.
There is a thin line between being firm and being coercive and somehow parents need to magically figure out how to walk this tightrope while trying to introduce their children to a healthy and nutritious foods.