Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Eat Your Child's Food! It Will Make Them Like It Better

By Julia Moravcsik, PhD, author of Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food

This article is about a strange technique for getting your young child to like a food.  To make your child like her food, you should eat it yourself!

I'm not talking about eating the same KIND of food.  I'm talking about eating the actual food off their plates!

There are two versions of this technique. 

The Tricky "I Want Your Food" Technique

Imagine that you've served your toddler a healthy meal of vegetable frittata and grapes.  Your toddler eats the frittata, but leaves the grapes.  You're not surprised -- you know that your little sweetums is not a grape lover.

"Oh, YES!" you say, using your best acting skills.  "I'm so glad you didn't eat your grapes because I LOVE grapes!"

Grab her plate and wolf down the grapes, making suitable relishing noises.

If your child is like most children, this will tell her 2 things:
  1. Grapes are tasty because Mom (or Dad) is loving them.
  2. Someone has taken my grapes away and is enjoying them.  I WANT THEM BACK!
Children have a paradoxical desire to like things that other people take from them, even if they hated them a second ago.  Heaven help the parent who, within the sight of their child, throws away a cheap toy that their child no longer plays with.  Immediately it becomes the favorite toy!

Use this technique sparingly, and only for young children who aren't sophisticated enough to catch on that you're only pretending.

The Loving "We're Sharing This Food" Technique

Children have a natural instinct to eat the same foods as their parents.  You can see this same instinct in many mammals.  A young fawn will push its mother's nose aside and eat the same plants that its mothers was eating.

You can (and should) encourage this instinct by eating the same foods as your child.

However, to really take advantage of this instinct, eat from the same plate as your baby or toddler.  Share a plate of food with your child.  You can sit your child in your lap so she can see the food. Your child's brain will definitely get the message that you and she are eating the same food!

Sharing a plate is a cozy, comfy, and fun thing to do.  Your child will associate the taste of grapes with the warmth of your lap, and will like them more as a result.

Our Primitive Ancestors Shared Their Food

People a long time ago (and today in some cultures) ate from the same plates.  It is a time-honored way of teaching children to eat the same food as the rest of the tribe or family.  It added motivation to eat in the form of mild competition (if I don't eat this then brother will get it) and role modeling.

What About Germs?

You may be concerned that sharing plates will spread germs.  This is a valid concern.  Young children can catch dangerous germs from their parents, including those that cause cavities.

With a little care, you can share a plate and still avoid spreading germs.  Avoid touching your mouth if you're eating finger food.  If you're eating spoon food, use a different spoon for you and for baby, and spoon from different parts of the plate.

What About Table Manners?

You may be concerned that your child will learn bad table manners. You don't want your child grabbing food off Grandma's plate at Thanksgiving!

This technique is for babies and toddlers.  You have plenty of time to stop before your child gets old enough to be expected to have table manners.  Don't worry about manners, mess, or mayhem this early in your child's life.  The important thing is to have fun and teach the taste of healthy foods!

Would you like a simple, easy-to-follow program that will teach your child to love healthy food? See my new book Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food on amazon.com.

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