No Pressure

Here’s a summary of the healthy eating strategies we’ve talked about thus far in my blog to help your kids eat more fruits and vegetables: 
  1. Be a role model
  2. Stock up and have plenty of fruits and vegetables available in your home
  3. Offer choices
  4. Create a positive and fun atmosphere around fruits and vegetables
  5. Have casual, educational (but non-lecturing) conversations about why it’s important to eat fruits and vegetables. 
When you follow these strategies above, you will create an environment that fosters healthy eating and your children will naturally adopt a healthy way of eating over time. They learn from watching you and will model their home environment – parents need to trust that, be patient and don’t pressure.  Which leads me to my next strategy:
6.       Don’t pressure your kids to eat foods they don’t want to eat.
Note that all the strategies above focus on what the PARENTS need to do in order to create a healthy food environment. These strategies do not put pressure on the child although the end result does positively influence their behavior. Too often children are seen as the “problem” and the parents try to use pressure or bribery to get their kids to do something or eat certain foods.  This tactic will definitely turn eating into a stressful situation and could backfire and turn a food issue into a control issue. In the long run, pressure and stress never create healthy eating habits.  
So take a step back, look at the big picture and evaluate your home environment: Is healthy food promoted and in abundance? Do you limit the amount of processed food that comes into your house? Review strategies 1-6 to make sure you’ve got everything in place and are setting a great example before you start to focus on your child’s behavior.   Don’t put the cart before the horse.
Raise Your Rainbow® helps you put all of these strategies into place just by being visible on your fridge. It reminds you of what you need to do and at the same time it will create a fun, non-pressured atmosphere around fruits and vegetables by engaging your child in play – which is the complete opposite of pressure!
So here are some more tips to help reinforce this “no pressure” rule and to make dinner less stressful:
  • Offer your kids healthy choices – don’t just force them to eat one option, that way it’s not a big deal if they don’t want to eat something. And whatever they don’t eat, the nutrients can be made up at another meal, or on another day…
  • If they don’t eat a lot at dinner, just leave their plate on the table (or put it in the fridge) so if they get hungry later, they can come back and revisit their plate. Sometimes telling them that this is it until breakfast (or bedtime snack if that's your routine) will encourage them to finish eating especially if they were simply distracted.  This also teaches them how to self-regulate and be in touch with their own hunger/fullness cues - the last thing you want to do is force your child to "clean their plate" and have them override/doubt their own hunger cues.  Give them healthy options and let them decide what and how much to eat.
  • Talk to them about HOW they like certain veggies cooked, or not cooked (kids usually prefer raw veggies and that’s okay). If it’s prepared in a way they like, they’ll be more likely to eat it.
  • Every family has their own preferences so be familiar with your family’s “No’s” and “Kid-Approved” veggies. For instance, our “No’s” are the usual non-kid-friendly suspects: canned veggies like peas and carrots (too mushy), and frozen packaged veggies that come with sauces like broccoli  Brussels sprouts, and asparagus (too rubbery and soggy),  we’ll eat fresh versions of most of those veggies and we do like frozen peas and corn and canned beans.  There are so many options available now that you shouldn't feel limited.  So have fun experimenting and building your “Tried and True” veggie list. (Seriously, make a list of the veggies your family likes and post it in your kitchen as a reminder of what to buy/serve.)
  • Teach your kids how to take a “polite bite” of a new food. Tell them they don’t have to have more than one bite and if it taste’s sooooo disgusting, they can spit it out quietly in their napkin. Sometimes it simply takes repeated exposures (even a quick one) to get their taste buds familiarized with the taste of a new food.

When your child lives in a home that values and promotes healthy eating, you don’t need to use pressure to get them to eat a certain way – eventually it will happen. Once you have a solid foundation in place, you can build on that and have fun using all those creative and nifty tips to help entice your child even more.