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Norah prepares some veggies for her salad. Many of them go straight into her mouth instead, and that’s OK.

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Getting your children to eat quality foods

As a recipe developer with a toddler, people always ask me how I get my kid to eat the food I cook. Norah is 2½ and loves everything from smoked salmon quiche for breakfast to snacking on olives, bell peppers, and dates, and has eaten these foods since she started baby-led weaning at six months old. Lest you think that I have the perfect healthy gourmet-eating toddler, she also eats many frozen chicken nuggets and microwaved macaroni and cheese. Kids have preferred tastes, just like adults do, and there will always be foods that they enjoy more than others. When trying to encourage your children to eat good food, there are a few basic guidelines that I think are helpful for caregivers to keep in mind.

Get the kids in the kitchen

A chair or learning tower and some plastic training knives are all you need to get your kids excited about helping in the kitchen. When Norah helps me make a salad for lunch, she always ends up eating the lettuce or cucumber right from the cutting board without anyone offering it to her. Don’t feel like you have to hide the spinach in their smoothie — ask them to put a handful of it in the blender. Let them scoop the chia seeds and pour in the almond milk. They will be so proud of themselves, they’ll likely eat (or drink) every bit and even encourage you to do the same.

Let them make up their minds

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard a parent say, “Oh no, you won’t like that” when a child asks to order something new from the menu. I get it, I do. The last thing you want is to spend the money only to have them turn it away. Been there, done that. However, by telling them straight up that you know they won’t like it, you’re making up their mind for them and putting up a wall that will be hard to knock back down.

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Stay neutral

Admittedly, this is the one that I have the most trouble with, and I notice a huge difference when I stick to this rule. The more you harp on trying the food, the more they likely won’t want to. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, “Just try it! You’ll like it!,” and almost every single time, it backfires. You are responsible for getting the food in front of them, and they are the ones responsible for eating it, no matter how old they are.

Don’t give up

Children’s taste buds are ever-evolving. If you offer them steamed cauliflower one time and they spit it out, don’t just throw in the towel and claim that they don’t like cauliflower. Whether it’s a texture aversion or a flavor dislike, foods can always be altered in new and exciting ways. Try grating the cauliflower to make it a rice-like consistency or roasting until it’s golden brown and has a nutty flavor. Just because children don’t prefer an ingredient one time doesn’t mean they won’t take a liking to it eventually. It can take up to 20 offerings for a child to develop a taste for a specific food, so don’t give up hope, and most importantly, have fun and don’t sweat it.

Paige Rhodes is the owner of Louisville-based MyModernCookery.com.

P.S. How Moms can encourage activism in their children.

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