Avoid dish­ing out kid-friendly meals

Tips on get­ting picky-eat­ing chil­dren to eat what you eat

Metro Canada (Edmonton) - - Food - Karon Liu TORSTAR NEWS SER­VICE

Try things more than once. You need to try five to 15 times be­fore kids de­ter­mine if they like it.

Dr. Dina Ku­lik

The first time I hosted fam­ily Sun­day din­ner when my sis­ter’s daugh­ter Made­line was eat­ing solid foods, I browsed blogs fret­ting over what I would feed the two-year-old.

What’s kid-friendly? Can I use pep­per? Should I cook the pasta ex­tra long? Hold back the sea­son­ing? Do a gen­tle sauté in­stead of a full roast?

I let the pasta boil for an ex­tra three min­utes. Not only did she not eat it, the adults at the ta­ble had to choke down my bland, slightly over­cooked meal.

Her par­ents later asked me not to make any­thing spe­cial for her — she was to be served what the adults were eat­ing. I thought they were just be­ing po­lite, but soon found out they were pre­vent­ing their daugh­ter from be­com­ing a picky eater.

Dr. Dina Ku­lik, a pe­di­a­tri­cian at Kid Crew Med­i­cal clinic in Toronto, ad­vises par­ents to feed kids what ev­ery­one else would eat at the ta­ble. She writes about how to pre­vent picky eaters on her on­line blog dr­dina.ca.

“I have three chil­dren who are six, four and two,” she says. “I’m not pre­par­ing some­thing spe­cial for each of them be­cause they don’t like what I pre­pared. I’m not a lunch chef. I don’t ex­pect them to fin­ish ev­ery sin­gle thing on the plate, but at least try ev­ery­thing on their plate. They eat the same meals as us whether it’s pasta, chicken or quinoa. We have one meal as a fam­ily.”

It may be tempt­ing to heat up chicken nuggets and pizza to get kids to eat some­thing, but Ku­lik says this just com­pli­cates eat­ing habits later in life.

“Let’s say you make this beau­ti­ful chicken dish and the kids re­ject it. So then you make chicken fin­gers and fries and they’ll eat that. You’re re­in­forc­ing them to not eat your chicken and to eat some­thing else in­stead,” she says. “It’ll keep go­ing and ev­ery meal will be a bat­tle be­cause neg­a­tive be­hav­iour is be­ing re­in­forced.”

Van­cou­ver-based chef and cook­book au­thor Vikram Vij adds that sim­ply call­ing a kid a picky eater re­in­forces neg­a­tive re­la­tion­ship with food.

“Kids in­ter­nal­ize th­ese things. If they’re called picky eaters, they’ll be­lieve it,” says the fa­ther of two. “Be­ing cat­e­go­rized as a picky eater boxes them in and par­a­lyzes them into not try­ing new foods.” He also ob­jects to pre­par­ing spe­cial meals for kids, say­ing it makes them feel iso­lated from the rest of the din­ner ta­ble.

“You have to make sure that what you make for your­self, you set aside some­thing that they can eat, too. Don’t os­tra­cize them. Show them the in­gre­di­ents; let them know what it is. Let food be part of their ev­ery­day life.”

Em­pha­siz­ing the fun, so­cial as­pect of food is im­por­tant for kids, both Vij and Ku­lik say. Get them in­volved with meal prepa­ra­tion and give them a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity and own­er­ship in the meal so that they’ll be proud of what’s on their plate. Let them ex­per­i­ment with spices and herbs. If kids see par­ents add sea­son­ing to their plate, let them try it too.

Torstar news ser­vice

La­belling kids as “picky eaters” only en­cour­ages them to re­quest fries over veg­eta­bles.

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