By Alan Miles
Our kids had some strongly held convictions about their food when they were young — convictions that made good nutrition a challenge.
Our oldest girl wanted only melted cheese carefully removed from casseroles, pizza and the like, making sure that none of the other ingredients were attached. Our son would eat nothing that was green, yellow or orange (and there aren’t a lot of blue vegetables). The middle daughter decided she wouldn’t even try anything she didn’t already like — at age three. And the youngest took all the peculiarities of her siblings to heart and made “yucky” one of her first words.
We leveraged nutrition into this crazy quilt of food preferences using these three healthy tips for picky eaters:
1. Subversion: We would sneak in “fortifiers” to boost the nutritional value of the few foods the kids liked. Wheat germ was mixed into the universally palatable mac and cheese to add vitamins and minerals. Pinches of nutritional yeast added B vitamins, protein and iron to popcorn and smoothies. As a special treat, we added a little molasses to warm milk, and it was soon a favorite. By making our own yogurt, we reduced the sweetener used to only fresh fruit. And gradually, with some resistance, we converted all pasta to whole grain.
2. Gamesmanship: We provided motivation while introducing elementary nutritional concepts as well. I’ve read that the average American elementary-age kid receives about 3.4 hours of food–related education per year — less than the amount of TV most of them watch each day. (Source: http://visual.ly/bring-food-education-back)
To teach our kids about healthy eating, we created a simple chart with color-in spoons to mark the servings of each kind of food eaten and called it a Good Eating Plate. Each kid had a chart that looked something like this: