Moms and Dads, your child is watching! He has been watching your movements and noticing odors for as long as you have put him near the kitchen. Your distinct food choices have offered him important clues about his food environment. He begins to see different colors and notices textures before they are put into his mouth by you or eventually by himself. He discovers what there is to like and dislike. He notices certain rituals around food such as regular eating times, seating at a table, meals eaten without external distractions such as television or blaring music, and people talking pleasantly to each other using “please pass the…” and “thank you” being part of the conversation. This is the beginning of a long adventure of feeding your child and nurturing him into adulthood.
How can parents ensure their child’s healthy nutritional status while respecting the child’s own inborn food preferences and tastes? Offering a variety of healthy foods with the occasional “fun” foods is the most effective way parents can ensure their children will grow to enjoy and appreciate the importance of a variety of healthy foods. By offering an occasional “fun” food, children will learn that it is just another food and not something to be earned by eating something else first or as a reward for doing something preferred or requested.
A parent must understand the importance of eating a variety of healthy foods in his or her diet. If the parent doesn’t do that himself, he is unlikely to recognize the need to offer variety to his offspring, and poor eating habits continue. Learn more at How Parents Can Create Healthy Habits.