Your kid only seems to like dessert and you struggle to sneak in some vegetables? Don’t worry, you are not alone. But why do kids like chocolate and not broccoli? And how can we teach them to appreciate other tastes?
Why is it that kids prefer sweet foods?
It’s not a choice. All babies are born with an innate preference for high-calorie foods and these happen to be either sweet or fat. This doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do. External influences play a big part. Parents should help their children to discover and appreciate other tastes like salty, sour and bitter.
How many sweet snacks can a toddler have?
It depends. Some healthy snacks, like fruit, can be sweet too. Some recommended snacks are fruit, yogurt, cereals, raw vegetables or a sandwich. Candy or cookies should be restricted to a minimum, but never forbidden. Forbidden fruit is always the most attractive. Treats like candy, chocolate or cookies must come with clear guidelines that can change from family to family. For example, on Friday night your kid is allowed to have one chocolate bar.
Is it OK to reward children with candy or cookies?
No. By linking reward and sweet foods together, your kid will perceive sweet treats as being positive and good for you. It’s never a good idea to connect food with emotional values. Why not reward your kid with a fun activity?
What about soft drinks?
It is advised to keep soft drinks for special occasions. They are very high in calories and lead to an energy intake that is way too high.
What should a kid’s lunchbox look like?
Whole wheat bread is an excellent choice. Put on some margarine and hearty filling like cheese or meat, because kids under four need more fat than adults. Nonetheless, you should regularly go for lean meat and low-fat cheese. To finish this packed lunch add some dairy product like yogurt or milk, a bottle of water and a piece of fruit.
Should I be worried when my kid eats very little food?
Appetite can fluctuate with children. This is perfectly normal. In the first year of their life babies eat a lot because they have to double in weight. After this year appetite will decrease naturally. Kids will continue to grow, but not as fast as before. On the other hand they become much more active. As long as your kid is growing steadily in size and weight, there is no need to worry. Just make sure he or she isn’t eating too much snacks instead of a decent meal.
If my kid only likes sweet food, how can I convince them to try different tastes?
It’s never a good idea to force a child to eat something. What you can do is ask them in a friendly but firm way to try a limited quantity of something new e.g. one spoon of green peas. If your kid doesn’t like what it tastes, don’t hesitate to try again next time. Slow and steady wins the race. Also try different preparations: raw, cooked, with a sweet sauce etc. Set an example and show your kid that you like what you eat yourself. This can be a great motivator.
How about kids who play with their food?
For small children this is a way to learn how to handle food. They want to experiment and get to know the sensation of eating. Therefore, allow them to do so. As long as you set the right example, they will be fine. Harder to tackle are kids who have a fear of food because they don’t want to be dirty. It’s important to give them more self-confidence and to show them it’s OK to get dirty.
Are there more eating disorders these days?
Yes, more and more kids are diagnosed with overweight and obesity. This has a lot to do with low levels of physical activity and an ever-increasing offer of high-calorie foods and drinks
How should I, as a parent, handle my kid that is overweight?
Don’t hesitate to ask a specialist for advice. There are several clinics that have a multidisciplinary team to observe kids who are too heavy. This team of experts is able to assess whether or not your worries are appropriate and how the specific situation should be handled. An important aspect of most treatments is the involvement of the whole family in a change of lifestyle and eating habits .
And how about underweight with kids?
It certainly exists, but is much less prevalent than overweight. If your kid is underweight, the first step is to take a look at the causes and eating habits. Often we see that mothers pass their dieting behaviors onto their children. Next, experts will create a personalized meal plan which has more, but smaller meals e.g. six small portions instead of three full plates. This way, your kid will get all the necessary calories without having to eat more in one sitting.