Director's Column: Healthy Eaters
We had a very interesting parent workshop this week on children and eating issues. Every child seems to have some issue around food. My oldest daughter insists that she hates fish, but will happily devour a plate of sushi. My youngest gags at the very thought of soup.
When my children were very young, we travelled quite a bit, and lived abroad in Italy for a year. It was impossible to find their favorite foods, like peanut butter, Cheerios, and Annie's mac and cheese. There were no children's menus at restaurants. They really had no choice but to eat what was available. It was challenging at times, but eventually they had tried so many new things that it was no longer a big deal when they were presented with an unfamiliar food. Kamryn Eddy, the workshop presenter, called it the "just noticeable difference." Meaning, the more new foods they added to their repertoire, the less noticeable it was to them when there was something new on the plate. Conversely, if a child is used to eating the same 4 foods at every meal, a new food is going to be very noticeable (and maybe even a little scary!)
The main takeaway I got from the workshop is that we, as parents, are the best resource in helping our children become healthy eaters. The challenge is that we ourselves have to have a healthy relationship with food in order to model that for our children. Some of her advice was: 1. Sit down and eat with your children. 2. Continue to expose your child to new foods, even if your child refuses them at first. 3. To help widen a child's repertoire, present one unfamiliar food alongside some favorites. 4. It is totally normal for preschoolers to be picky! If they are still extremely restrictive by 8 or 9 years old, talk to a doctor. Kamryn also gave us a handout with some useful information about experimenting with new foods. She suggests 5 questions to ask when trying new foods: 1. What does it look like (e.g. green, round)? 2. What does it feel like (e.g. rough, smooth)? 3. What does it smell like (e.g. strong, bitter)? 4. What does it taste like (e.g. salty, sweet)? 5. What is the texture like (e.g. chewy, soft)? The more you practice, the more you learn. Research shows it can take 10 or more times to get comfortable with a new food. I was so proud of the Pre-K class this week, who were served Marmite with tea at snack time. Every single child tried this new and somewhat unusual food. Nobody liked it, but they all tried it! Maybe we'll serve it 10 more times and see if anyone develops a taste for it! best, Nina