When it comes to convincing picky eaters to eat more healthy food, Nimali Fernando knows just the trick. A Virginia-based pediatrician, Nimali’s healthy lifestyle tips have been featured in both local and national publications including Family Magazine and Fredericksburg Parent. Her innovative new practice, Yum Pediatrics, features a teaching kitchen and instructional garden, both of which offers a unique approach to teaching families how to adopt better eating habits. She also is the founder of the popular non-profit the Doctor Yum Project.
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Kids do the darndest things, like not eat their fruits and vegetables. It may be tempting to scold or punish a child for not eating what you put in front of them, however, as the old adage goes, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. The next time you deal with trying to convince your picky eater to eat their Brussels sprouts, check out these five tips from pediatrician Nimali Fernando to help make mealtime stress-free.
Use Positive Language
Try not to make your child feel bad about not trying something new. “Kids are very attuned to the language used around them,” says Nimali. “Keep things positive by suggesting that they are still exploring and learning about food and that their taste preferences will continue to grow with practice.” Positive reinforcements, like calling your child “exploring eaters,” will help ease the tension.
Make Tasting Time a Special Part of Your Day
Set aside a set time during the day to sample new foods. While it may be tempting to use dinner as the time to sample food, Nimali suggests conducting a taste time right after school when hunger tends to be higher, which will help lead to greater success. Make tasting time extra exciting with special extras like matching aprons or chef hats.
Use All Senses to Explore
Treat the new food item like a science experiment. “Spend time building familiarity with food by touching, smelling, even listening to food,” notes Nimali. Ask your kid what sound does a carrot make as you snap it in half or what does broccoli look like (a tree). Lessening the unknown factor about new foods will help give kids more confidence to eventually taste them.
Cook With Your Kids
“Building familiarity with foods is most effectively done by involving kids with cooking,” Nimali recommends. “This can be done as early as the toddler years, by involving little ones with washing, tearing and sorting food.” This type of involvement will further help boost your child’s confidence with trying new things as well as foster a healthy relationship with wholesome foods.
Be a Good Role Model
Of course, the best way to teach your child how to embrace new foods is to try them yourself, and with a smile. “Show your child how important it is and how much you enjoy whole foods,” says Nimali. No over-exaggeration required, just serve healthy foods with a smile and note how good it tastes. Your child’s natural curiosity will do the rest.
Susan Diranian is a freelance writer living in Ashburn, VA. She is covering Travel & Outdoors. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.