How to Help Kids Taste New Foods?

If all your child eats is ‘mac and cheese’, here are some helpful tips that will encourage your child to eat healthily

Thousands of studies have confirmed that good nutrition has a direct link to our kids’ normal development, mental and physical function, behavior, learning and the ability to materialize their full potential.

Moreover, many studies have proved that poor nutrition during the young ages lead to chronic diseases they might get in the future.

For example, a famous China Study has found that there is a direct correlation between a diet rich in animal protein during the early stages of life and a higher risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer and prostate cancer (hormone related cancers).

It is very important that we, moms, understand that feeding our children with sickening foods is almost like serving them with cigarettes and even lighting them!

Therefore, it is so crucial for parents to learn about child nutrition, realize what works and what doesn’t and try to implement healthy food practices as much as possible in order to set children for success and vitality.

Guidelines for Kids’ Healthy Nutrition                 

Before getting into details I would like to make something very clear. If your child has been diagnosed with a physical disease, ADD/ADHD, or if your child has a tendency to acting violent, you have to consult with a professional who specializes in such disorders who should be able to tailor a proper nutrition plan for these kids’ special needs.

So, what should a healthy nutrition program for a child include…

  1. Only fresh food
  2. Plenty of fresh and cooked colorful vegetables such as beets, kohlrabi, broccoli, radish, red/green cabbage, cauliflower, all colors of peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, asparagus, and sprouts. All these veggies are rich in protein and tons of vitamins and minerals.
  3. Plenty of leafy greens of all kinds – kale, lettuce, baby lettuce, spinach. These are very rich in good quality protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are essential to kids’ growing and developing bodies.
  4. Plenty of fruit of all colors and kinds such as bananas, apples, pears, fresh and frozen berries, strawberries, kiwi, citrus fruits, mango, grapes, peaches, nectarines, fresh dates, watermelon, melon, and more. Fruits are rich in vitamins and minerals and are an excellent replacement for commercial sweets that kids love so much.  
  5. Nuts and seeds – which are rich in good quality protein and fat, especially essential fatty acids (omega 3 and 6). These nutrients are essential for our kids’ ability to learn and focus (a little hint here, if your child has issues with staying focused for a long time he/she might be deficient in EFA’s)
  6. Whole grains (whole rice, buckwheat, millet, bulgur, quinoa) – these are important sources of B vitamins that are super important for a proper development of children’s nervous system.
  7. Legumes – chickpeas, beans, lentils (red, green, black and brown) – these are high in good quality protein, iron, vitamins, and minerals.
  8. Animal protein – turkey, chicken, fish or egg – limit to 2-3 times a week tops!

What should you give up completely…

  1. Empty carbohydrates – white, refined products (white rice, white flour, white noodles, white cuscus, white potatoes)
  2. Candy, colorful sweets and treats and sweetened dry fruit
  3. Artificial food coloring – check food labels for things like – Blue 1 and 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Red 3 and 40, Yellow 5 and 6. These chemicals are present mostly in candy and kids’ snacks and have been linked to cancer.
  4. MSG – monosodium glutamate, which is used in processed foods to enhance flavour and has also been linked to cancer and especially to ADD/ADHD!  
  5. Foods containing preservatives, emulsifiers, and anything on food labels that begins with the letter E
  6. Canned, frozen, fast, highly processed foods (very high in trans fats – burekas, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, Chinese food)  
  7. Soda, boxed sweetened juices – let them get used to plain water

6 Most dangerous foods for kids (especially if they have food sensitivities, allergies or behavioural issues)…

  1. Cheese/butter products – very high in saturated fats, hormones and antibiotics (toxins get stucked in fatty foods)
  2. Store bought fries and salty snacks – high in trans fats, sodium and acrylamides – all are carcinogenic!
  3. Store bought baked goods and treats – also high in trans fats, sugar and other artificial chemicals
  4. hot-dogs, cold-cuts, and other deli products – packed with fillers, chemicals and nitrates which are all carcinogenic
  5. Preserved meats, smoked and grilled meats – increase the chance of getting stomach cancer and high blood pressure.
  6. Soft drinks – very high in sugar, chemicals, artificial sweeteners, and phosphorus that leaches calcium out of bones.

A common question that I get asked a lot!

‘I am a mom of 3 kids (daycare and elementary school ages) and I have to deal with a lot of difficulties and unsuccessful trials to move kids to a healthier lifestyle. The hardest part is to get them eat fruits and vegetables. How can I do that without struggle and conflicts?’

My answer

One of the hardest and significant struggles for parents on their way to a healthier lifestyle, is communicating to their children the importance of expanding the list of foods they like to eat, try new foods and move towards a healthier menu.

In order to reach kids and persuade them, we, parents, need creativity! Here is something that works wonderfully for me and my clients:

Turn kiddies into your ‘food critics’ and ask for their honest opinion, in a way that will cause even the pickiest of eaters to try new things. How?

After making a new dish, ask for their opinion by filling in the following table:

Dish name Love it! So so… No thanks! Prize
Dish #1
Dish #2
Dish #3

In the first row write down the name of the dish you’ve made (brown rice, lentils, beans, broccoli, sweet potato, etc)

Kids have to choose one of the three rows “love it”, “so so” and “no thanks” – you can either use a sticker or a smiley face after they tried the food. The last column is the best- the prize! After each taste kids get a star. After 5 starts (or 10, whatever you decide) – they get a prize.

But, in order not to make this whole thing about getting prices or annoy you with “no thanks” answers, I advise you to decide ahead of time, for example, that each week out of three new recipes they’ve tried and tasted one goes onto the weekly menu. This way they feel like they’ve participated in the process.

When choosing a gift, make sure it is appropriate for the child’s age. I like to use stickers, colours, coins or even a fun day at the park with mommy and daddy.

Important! Only whoever tastes at least one bite out of every new food goes into the table. This way you are ensuring they actually taste each food.

More Suggestions:

  1. Kids eat more vegetables when they are laid out in front of them. Not only we are making it easy for them to eat but also this way we are showing how important fresh fruits and veggies are for us, therefore we take the time and effort to make them available. Wash all fruit and vegetables right after you come from shopping and put them in a beautiful bowl in a main corner of the house. I like to put them on the kitchen counter or on the dining table.
  2. Allow the kids to participate in food prep and let them decide how to serve it. For example, let them help you make green smoothies, a dark chocolate fondue, fruit kebabs, soups (I love using my Vitamix for this purpose).
  3. Talk to children about the importance of having variety in food. Talk to them about the beautiful colours and what they mean. Which vitamins and minerals each group has. You can even turn this into a game.