The other day I was asking a mum if she put vegetables on the table at any of the day’s meals. She said that at dinner she cooks corn, carrots and broccoli most days. I asked her if she ever offers other vegetables. Her answer was ‘ they don’t eat any other vegetables’. This got me thinking about what I call repeated, neutral exposure.
Repeated exposure just means that children see a variety of foods, including the ones that they have previously rejected, on a regular basis. It doesn’t mean that you cook the same meal day after day but offer whatever you are eating.
Neutral exposure means that food is put on the table at a mealtime and there is no pressure to eat it. This means not saying things like:
‘you used to eat this when you were a baby’
‘just try it’
‘Mmmm. Daddy loves broccoli’
‘How do you know you don’t like it if you’ve never tried it’
Children learn to eat the foods their parents like to eat. This is a process that, for some children, may take many years. Here are my tips on how you can help your child learn to like the foods you eat:
- Offer a variety to foods – you can’t expect your child to eat broccoli or any other food for that matter, if they don’t see it on a regular basis. We don’t like the same foods all the time. So you never know when a child may feel like a new food.
- Cook one meal for everyone in the family. Cook what you like eating. That way your children will be ‘exposed’ to a wider variety of foods than if you cater to their fussiness and cook the same few meals.
- Eat with your children as much as possible – how will they learn to like the foods you eat if they never see you eating them?
- Avoid talking about the food that is on the table. If you are not ‘getting your child to eat’ you can then relax and take the stress out of the mealtime.