I think it’s safe to say that no one wants a picky eater in their home, so why does it seem to be a frustration for many parents out there today?  With so many fast and convenient food options, it can be so easy to get stuck in a rut – for all of us, let alone our wee ones!  The exciting news is that there is a lot you can do as a parent to positively impact your child’s eating habits.

It’s important to know that developing your palate is something that starts very early in life and the more flavours one is exposed to, the more evolved the palate.  It has even been found that the foods you eat while pregnant influence your child’s future food habits – another reason for you to eat a varied and healthful diet.

Use these nutrition guidelines to help your child develop a healthy food palate:

  • Variety is the spice of life!  An effective way to develop your child’s palate is to try new foods regularly.  We tend to lack variety in our diets and that does not serve us well in our willingness to try new things; nor does it do our digestive tracts any favours as it often leads to food sensitivities.
  • Try different milk sources, such as: goat, almond, organic soy, oat, flaxseed, rice and coconut.
  • Rotate between vegetarian and animal sources of protein such as fish, chicken, turkey, beef, lentils, chickpeas and black beans.
  • Mix and match your fruits and vegetables in your puree or even on your plate.  It’s amazing the new flavours you can come up with.
  • Try different grains.  We depend too much on wheat as our primary grain and with its mass production, it is not as nutrient-rich as it once was.  Consider quinoa, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, oats and rice as alternatives.  Unfamiliar with some of these?  Explore new taste sensations along with your wee ones.  A great way for you to ease into this is by starting with products from companies like Baby Gourmet.  They do an excellent job of using different fruit and vegetable combinations and a variety of protein sources.  Try their combinations first and be inspired to create your own!
  • Pack a flavour punch!  As adults, how often do we eat plain chicken or bland veggies?  Most of us enjoy the experience of full flavours in our mouths.  A great way to diversify your child’s taste buds is to include herbs and spices with their meals or puree blends.  People tend to stick to bland food introduction, but there is no logical reason for this.  It is important to expose your child early to new and different taste flavours.  A simple way of doing this is to add a little spice.  You can introduce these one by one, just as you do with fruits and vegetables, and eventually you will have expanded your child’s flavour combinations beyond what you once thought imaginable.
  • Let sweetness shine in their personality, not on their plate.  Sweets, treats and overly processed convenience foods should not make their way onto a child’s plate.  I have so many parents say to me, “My child won’t eat that, he only likes Kraft Dinner”… or cookies, or Cheerios, whatever it may be.  Well, let’s take a step back for a minute and ask – how did they even get these foods?  If you don’t offer them, they don’t know to crave them.  It’s that simple.  Do not feed your child food that you do not want them to have or that you don’t want to battle over because they refuse to eat the healthy option.  They cannot miss what they have never experienced.  If you truly want to give your child a sweet treat that is packed with benefits, fruit is your best option.  Consider cutting it into fun shapes for something special!
  • Colour, colour, colour!  Abandon the all beige diet.  Breads, pastas and potatoes, oh my!  We lack colour in our diets and I am not talking about the fluorescent stuff.  I am talking about fruits and vegetables.  Strive for a plate that is full of different colours.  More colours mean more nutrients, anti-oxidants and flavours.  All the colours of the rainbow allows for variety and assurance that your child is getting all their nutritional needs met through their diet… what a concept!

Diversifying your child’s diet prepares them and empowers them to perceive trying new foods differently.  It can become a fun explorative relationship for them versus a battle between child and parent to try something new.  Starting them off with a variety of flavours and food combinations prepares them for such an experience later in life and your positive attitude influences their perception of healthy food.  The harmony of these two important factors will help influence and shape a new relationship with food for the whole family.

Stay tuned for my follow-up article on how your attitude and perceptions can positively influence your child’s love of healthy food!

Happy eating,