Why It’s So Important for Kids to Love Food

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When it comes to feeding our kids, there’s no end to the discussion. How do we get our children excited about expanding their palates? Why does it matter? How do we cultivate a lifelong love of food in our little ones? It’s an important topic, so we asked some of our favorite foodie experts for their advice. Read on to see what they said.

Being into food will help them stay healthy.

Eating a variety of foods helps kids get most of the nutrients they need to stay healthy. In addition, exposing them to a wide range of food means being more adventurous at eating fruits and vegetables, which are vital in maintaining a healthy nutritional habit. Heidi Miller, a Speech-Language Pathologist and Feeding Specialist shares that “It has been proven that having the exposure to a variety of different foods can translate to a more expanded palate. In addition, being intrinsically motivated to explore foods can lead to less anxiety around eating and being more adventurous when trying new food.”

Being into food will help them try new things.

If your child is more daring when it comes to food, they will be more likely to be adventurous away from the dining table. Children who try new things and take age-appropriate risks are more confident and have a better sense of wellbeing. You can encourage this by “Serving meals as ‘tasting trays,’ as this allows them to make choices, rather than you choosing for them. Great for keeping their self-esteem topped up and helping to encourage independence," explains parenting consultant Kirsty Ketley.

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Being into food will help them connect with nature.

Knowing where your food comes from connects you back to nature, and as a result, you become more environmentally aware. According to the Wildlife Trusts, “research revealed that children’s wellbeing increased after they had spent time connecting with nature: the children showed an increase in their wellbeing and health over time, and they showed an increase in nature connection and demonstrated high levels of enjoyment.” So being invested in how and where your food is produced can only be a good thing in this day and age; it can cultivate respect for the natural world. 

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Being into food will bring new diverse friends into their lives.

Children are naturally curious. We can encourage this curiosity by exposing them to foods from all corners of the globe, from delicious curries to moreish international gourmet foods; their tastebuds will take them to far-flung places. They will be exposed to friends from different cultures and will experience life from different perspectives. That sense of adventure will spread to other areas of their lives. 

photo: iStock

How to make it happen.

What happens if your child isn’t excited about food quite yet? First, make sure that food doesn’t become a point of contention. Piling on pressure will not have the desired effect. Heidi Miller says that “modeling our enjoyment of food helps. If your child tries something one time and does not like it, that’s ok; it may take a few more exposures. It is also important NOT to jump to eating. Allow your child to explore the food in any way that feels safe to them. Food should feel cozy, and it is critical to protect our relationship of trust around our kids with food. It is a delicate balance of our exposing them and allowing them to decide how much they are going to eat.” 

Second, making the process fun is vital. We can do this by encouraging kids to help us shop, prepare and cook food. Catherine McCord, Founder of Weelicious, Co-founder of One Potato, and three-time cookbook author agrees that “cooking starts with growing and buying foods. Getting kids involved in cooking is all about exposure. Pick a fruit or vegetable to plant and nurture with your child, and then cook something with it. Learn about the nutrients, how it grows and anything else that will let your child get excited. Visit local farmers’ markets and even go to your grocery and let your child pick any piece of produce they want to try.”

—Lucy Benton

 

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