Helping picky eaters appreciate the food process

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Helping picky eaters appreciate the food process.

Each new day, provides the opportunity for family mealtime! Whether it is breakfast, lunch, or supper, offering foods that are both nutritious and pleasing to your family is an important goal. Often younger children have different tastes in foods than their parents. What sounds like a good menu to an adult may be greeted with groans by children. Described often as “picky eaters”, children can slowly learn to appreciate a variety of foods given time, and an opportunity to try them in small amounts.

Taking children to the grocery store and letting them help select fruits and vegetables may be the first step in introducing a new food. Maybe your family has a garden, letting children help plant the seeds, and water the garden, will make them curious about the growing season and filled with excitement about the harvest.

Summer time is a great time to work together alongside your child in the kitchen with meal time preparation. Children, depending on their age and ability, can wash vegetables under water, can help chop simple vegetables, and can help arrange food for the evening meal.

Don’t worry about your picky eater, find a way to engage them in the kitchen and enjoy the experiences you are making together.

Written by Barb Dunn-Swanson. June 2016

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Family meal time

Regular family mealtimes improve children’s health and academic performance!

Now that your children are back in school and your family’s activities are in full swing, one of the most important things you can do is take time to eat frequent family meals. Research consistently shows that families who eat meals together reap many benefits! For instance, children who consistently eat meals with their families consume more nutritious meals than those who do not. Family meals tend to contain healthier portion sizes, more fruits and vegetables, fewer snacks, and fewer fried foods. Research also shows that children who eat regular family meals have a decreased risk for developing eating disorders, being obese, and using alcohol or other drugs. These children also perform better in school, tend to be happier, less stressed, have positive peer relations, and a decreased risk of suicide. As an added bonus, family meals also provide children with skills they can use later in life, such as social etiquette, table manners, and conversational skills.

Family scientists recommend remaining flexible when choosing a time of day and location to eat together; if every member cannot be together at dinnertime, schedule a family breakfast, lunch, or picnic. It’s important to make family meals a priority without the distractions of televisions, computers, phones, or gaming devices. Parental involvement and frequent, quality parent-child communications during mealtimes facilitate family rituals, better parent-child communications, higher self-esteem among children, and more secure family relationships.

Eliciting help from everyone in mealtime planning, preparation, and clean up increases the amount of time spent together as a family. For example, everyone can choose menu items, a 4-year old can easily set the table with napkins and silverware, an 8-year old can assist in the clean up, and a teen can help prepare the meal. These opportunities give children more responsibilities, which in turn enhances their self-esteem.

Parents are role models for their children’s attitudes about food, values, and the importance of family time. So, make mealtime a priority and make it fun!

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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