Learning Care Group News: March 27, 2014

7 Common Food Myths about Feeding Young Children

Do you spend your days worrying that your children aren’t getting the nutrition they need? I certainly do. So I did some research, and found some surprising facts. Here are 7 common food myths you can banish from your worry list:

  • Myth #1
    • Disguise veggies in sweet treats. It may give you temporary satisfaction to see Junior scarfing down kale tucked inside a brownie. But think of the long term game here – it’s important that he have the opportunity to gradually tolerate (and even enjoy) his veggies. Instead, you’re telling him to go ahead and fill up on treats while avoiding healthier fare. Besides, you want your child to trust you, right? Hiding spinach in his ice cream leads to suspicion – not a love of healthy foods. Involve him in nutritious cooking projects instead.
  • Myth #2
    • Bland is Best. Rice cereal and plain pasta top the list of most-offered foods to young kiddos – but only in the USA. Young children in other cultures are routinely given varied spices, textures, and combinations from the start. As long as your pediatrician allows it, experiment with flavorful and colorful tastes early on to widen your child’s food horizons.  Experts say this might not just make meals more interesting, it may also make them healthier, too.
  • Myth #3
    • She’ll Grow Out Of It. About half of all children are naturally picky eaters. This tendency can be worsened by parents giving in to their child’s food whims. But a good percentage of picky eating is inborn. Parents are often surprised to learn their child has extreme sensitivities to the taste or textures of certain foods. Most kids don’t outgrow this on their own, but do benefit when you patiently serve new foods paired with good old stand-bys. Lots of low-key encouragement helps, too.
  • Myth #4
    • Parents need to be chefs. Actually, simple is best. Don’t worry that you need to learn fancy new skills to offer the best – and tastiest – nutrition for your child. Make your children easy versions of what your family likes to eat. Try new, healthy things as a family, and enjoy your meal together. Nothing fancy required!
  • Myth #5
    • Must. Get. Healthy. Food. Into. Kids. It’s easy to succumb to the fears associated with poor nutrition. But the more pressure you put into mealtime, the more your children are likely to rebel.  The feelings and memories associated with fun family meals are more important than the total nutritional intake of your child during any particular meal. Slow and steady wins this race.
  • Myth #6
    • She’s Not Hungry. Maybe. But it’s also possible she’s full of milk (or juice). In my practice, I frequently see little ones who “won’t eat” – but drink 30+ ounces of milk a day. Ensure your child isn’t drinking all her calories to boost her internal sense of hunger.
  • Myth #7
    • She hates veggies. This one is actually true. But don’t give up. Mother Nature makes sure she’s cautious about new foods. It takes 10-15 trials for most children to feel comfortable trying a new food. Allow her to touch, smell, lick, or even taste and spit out a tiny bite while she gets used to it. Soon she’ll be making her own Caesar salads, like my 12-year-old (a notorious picky eater in her earlier years).

Do you struggle with nutrition at home? Share your comments and questions here!

About the Author

Dr. Heather Wittenberg

Dr. Wittenberg is a psychologist specializing in the development of babies, toddlers, preschoolers — and parents. She offers no-hype, practical parenting advice on her blog BabyShrink — rooted in science, and road tested in her own home as the mother of four young children. She has helped thousands of parents over the years and knows that the most common problems with young children — sleep, feeding, potty training and behavior — can be the most difficult ones to solve.