Thursday Tips: 3 Ways Positivity Can Help Kids Learn To Love Food

positivity food faceWe are all uplifted or brought down by the emotions around us. We can thank our mirror neurons and vagus nerve for this kind of empathy and mirroring of each others moods and emotions.

The influence we have on those around us applies to food preferences and attitudes towards foods, too. Children have been shown to have food preferences similar to their mother’s (though I think the same would prove true for fathers who are a big part of their child’s meals).

I can personally attest to this phenomenon with foods my mom doesn’t like. My whole childhood I saw the ‘yucky’ face my mom made whenever beets were mentioned and it took until well into my 20s for me to even try a beet. Same with mustard and a host of other foods my mom doesn’t like.

I’m certainly not blaming moms for their kids picky eating habits, but our influence is something to be aware of. When we’re aware of our influence we can use it to our advantage to help kids feel comfortable trying new foods, rather than just steering them away from foods we don’t like.

Here are 3 ways to use positivity to help teach kids to love food:

1. Use positive language to describe food.

‘Those are beautiful apples!’ ‘what gorgeous cauliflower!’ ‘This chicken is delicious, scrumptious, divine!’ You get the idea. Kids like to imitate words that are fun to say, so get silly, exaggerate the big, positive words. This is not a quick fix. Just because you call a food beautiful doesn’t mean your child will want to eat it right away. But it will most likely pique their interest into thinking about the food in a new positive way and that is a great step towards wanting to interact with it and eventually eat it!

2. Take pressure out of eating situations.

Since, ultimately, it is a child’s choice how much they eat, putting pressure on them to eat can create a negative situation. It also gives a lot of attention to food refusal. Kids repeat behaviors that get them a lot of attention, so continually telling them to take another bite can set up a really difficult dynamic.

Try following the rules for mealtime/snack-time responsibilities. If your picky eater doesn’t want to eat something, just shrug and say ‘ok’. If the food can be saved, put it away to present later. This shows kids they have the power to choose what goes into their bodies and, if they are hungry, they have the power to fix it (by eating at the next snack or meal).

3. Make Mealtimes Social and Fun.

Mealtimes are about more than just eating. They are times in our day where we come together to be nourished by the food and the company at the table. Talk about what you are thankful for, what you are excited about, the triumphs and let downs of everyone’s day. Use positive language to talk about the food and make the quantities of food eaten secondary to the experience of the meal.

How do you make mealtimes positive? Comment and share your ideas!

Enjoy!

 

 

 

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40 thoughts on “Thursday Tips: 3 Ways Positivity Can Help Kids Learn To Love Food

  1. What do you do when the family meal is something a child just flat-out won’t eat? I have a hard time trying to talk someone into eating a specific food because I remember I could never stand the smell or texture of oysters – and they were my mom’s favorite food! They revolted me so that I would go without until the next meal. Any suggestions? Just keep that off the menu? Make an alternate dish?

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    1. Hi, thanks for stopping by! Without fully knowing your situation here’s a go at your problem: I guess, it would depend if it is just one offending dish and how often that dish is served. Generally, I don’t like the idea of making different meals for different family members (understanding that sometimes food allergies do not make this possible!), but if it’s just this one dish and it’s served fairly often, there might be a rule a child could have leftovers and the other things that are for dinner. I just really hate to get the short-order cook thing going! If it’s not served often, I would serve some robust sides/salads with the dish and tell the child they can have everything else. Which might actually be fine even if it’s served often, too. I hope that’s helpful. I definitely don’t ever endorse forcing foods on kids. It might be worth a try to do some food play activities with this food and see if it becomes more popular, too!

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  2. We like to involve our kids in the growing and cooking of our food. I have found that when they have some control over a recipe, they tend to want to try it. We also don’t just stick to a single way to prepare something although we definitely do have favorites that they request. Finally we are careful not to use food as a reward. I just don’t want them to think of a cookie as something that means they did a good job. We have spent a lot of time just trying to make it a complete nonissue.

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  3. This is a fantastic post on this topic. My kids are older now (12 and up) so the days of “picky eating” are over – but I concur wholeheartedly with your advice. The “no pressure” is especially key. I see parents just going nuts trying to bribe their kids into eating something – or even threatening them over it, and I have to zip my big mouth b/c I want to say “excuse me, but that is going to backfire, and big time,” lol. Because we did not associate food with pressure, and also, like you advise – make mealtimes fun and enjoyable, my kids will try anything, and we never had any stress over it. Great post – will share with my friends with young ones 🙂

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    1. Thank you! It is amazing how taking away pressure makes everything more enjoyable! Thank you so much for sharing, too! I’ve had people tell me that sharing this blog was a way for them to offer advice without having to open their mouths, lol! I’m so thankful I can provide this resource 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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  4. We have a “question jar” near the table and if dinner time is going well (sadly, it doesn’t always), we each get to choose a question and take turns answering. These are fun, thoughtful, and silly questions, like “If you had a horse in the Kentucky Derby, what would you name it?” or, “What is your favorite family tradition?” A friend who is an educator and child development specialist made the jar and my 4-year-old absolutely loves it. Right now we are really struggling with not putting any pressure on our son. We’ve come a LONG way, but he still dilly-dallies and loses focus quite easily. Dinner time can take an hour — time we don’t have with 15-month-old twins who are done eating in 20 minutes! We’re working on positive ways to bring him back on track but any suggestions would be great!

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    1. I love the idea of the question jar! Without knowing why your son is dilly-dallying it can be hard to offer effective solutions, but I’ll try to give my take on how long meals should take and a few ideas. First, we only want a child trying to eat–actively feeding themselves and chewing for 30 minutes. Over 30 minutes and the child is spending too much energy on eating in one sitting. That being said, a lot of what we do at meals it talk. We’re not usually actively eating the whole time. I love this social aspect of meals and feel it nourishes us as much as the food on table, but I understand it can’t take all day. No matter why he’s dallying, a timer may help. It is such a great visual reminder of how much time is left that you can give a lot less verbal pressure, but refer to the timer when you need to give a promt. You could also try to switch up your awesome question jar with dinner questions. If he hasn’t taken a bite in a while you could pick a stick from the ‘eating’ jar which could give a choice or a prompt to re-engage with dinner. I also find ‘first, then’ language is really effective. Talking about what he’s excited about after dinner can sometimes speed things up. “first we finish dinner and then….!!’
      I hope these ideas are helpful. Good luck!

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