In our modern society, children have more freedoms to decide what they want to do, what they want to wear or what they want to eat. Even if it is important to consider what our children are requesting, parents should be the decision-maker for the sake of their children’s safety, happiness, and salvation. Children’s education starts at the youngest age. Her future tastes and habits will be molded in the first years of her life.
The Bible tells all parents: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
– Proverbs 22:6
Here, God doesn’t encourage or suggest. He tells parents what to do so that when their children grow up they won’t depart from the way they were trained. When it comes to food many kids are picky and often push away or refuse to try healthy foods. It might be because of the taste, the texture or the color of the food.
Make Children Love Healthy Food
To make children love healthy food, start introducing new fruits and vegetables tastes (pureed) as soon as a baby’s teeth emerge. This is the best time to develop a young one’s taste and appreciation of the food God has created for us. But if sweet porridge (or similar food) has been introduced before that, babies might refuse anything else. Porridge should not be introduced before the teeth of a baby come out (which is a sign that babies can start eating solid food), except if strongly advised by a pediatrician.
But there is hope for children of all ages, and even for adults. With goodwill, prayer, and some organization, anyone can reeducate their taste buds or the ones of their children. Many have been used to consume food too sweet, too salty or over-processed. But God gave us a brain that can reeducate our taste buds!
Researchers in the US have demonstrated that taste can be turned on and off by simply activating and silencing certain brain cells. A study from Columbia University Medical Centre shows that our brain perceives flavors.
The brain directs people’s on food choices. What people are used to eating from a young age is so hard to remove from their diet because their brain asks for more. And the big companies know that. According to Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, “[Companies] engineer [everything from] the texture and the taste of food, to the amount of crunch, and the decibel level that you perceive in your head. Consequently, you will be attached; your taste buds will be grabbed and they can hook you on the food. Their job is to addict the intelligence of your taste buds to the cheapest mass-produced food so they can make tremendous profits.”
You can make your taste buds smarter. For example, if you or your children are used to eating too much unhealthy food, try a healthier diet for a month. You or your children will then realize that you can’t eat as much junk food as you did before. As you continue to introduce healthy food and reduce unhealthy food, you will realize over time that healthy food is not only healthier but also tastier.
But you might ask, how can I make my children (and even myself) stop refusing healthy foods?
16 tips for picky eaters:
1. Be a good example.
If you as a parent or as a grandparent, don’t eat healthy food and ask your children or grandchildren to eat healthily, you will probably won’t get good results. We are our children’s role models and everything we do, they will try to copy. Therefore, an effort from you to eat healthier is needed. Not only will you be healthier and happier, but your little ones will also develop more taste and enjoyment for healthy food. And remember what God said:
“Thou shalt not eat it; that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the Lord” – Deuteronomy 12:25
2. Make family meals a priority
Studies have shown that families eating together are better nourished and their children achieve better academic success. This also teaches good manners and help improve relationships in the family. It is also good to eat peacefully, so you can teach your children to control their emotions while they eat and to control their appetite. You can even establish rules to ban arguing, TV and other devices so that all will have a peaceful, enjoyable meal.
3. Keep praying for and with your children
Pray that God helps you enjoy the healthy foods He made for us. Your children will feel a sense of responsibility that they will enjoy, but God will hear your prayer and you will see great change: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” – Matthew 18:20
4. Read with them
You can read to them in a fun and educative way some parts of the Bible that talk about food, such as Daniel chapter 1. Here, Daniel and his friends refused to eat and drink the King’s meat and wine, who were healthier and wiser than the other children in the kingdom, and who were favored by God.
Paul wrote: “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” – 2 Timothy 3:14-15
5. Be creative
Add healthy food in the meals they enjoy. For example, you can cut some zucchini into very small pieces and add them to your pasta sauce or your lasagna. You can add some tiny pieces of broccoli and red onions on a pizza. Make homemade ice pops with blended bananas, and other fruits. Create colorful smoothies, and even add some baby spinach to it (or blueberries to mask to the green color of the spinach). It is a clever way to ensure your children are getting the nutrients they need.
Nevertheless, keep trying to introduce vegetables and fruits to your kids without hiding them. Encourage them to try and enthusiastically congratulate them when they do try. If they really don’t want to try, don’t force them and keep introducing healthy food over time.
6. Cook with them
Kids usually love to create things and with your guidance, cooking can be a fun and creative way to develop their taste for eating healthier. If your children are very young, there are many ways to cook safely with them. They can make use of their clean bare hands, or use safe tools such as a masher, a salad spinner, or measuring cups and spoons.
Many baking recipes can be made with kids in which you incorporate fruits such as an apple pie. Or incorporate vegetables in veggie meatballs, black bean burgers, veggie meatloaf with the adult handling the oven. Vegetables and/or fruits salads with previously cut ingredients by an adult. When the food is ready, your children will want to try the food they have made with you and will ask to renew the experience.
7. Clean dishes together
First, clean the unsafe cooking utensils yourself and put them out of reach from your children. Then you can give a step stool, and a soapy sponge (preferably with natural soap on it) to your children, and let them clean some dishes with you. Not only they will have fun, but they will feel empowered by the responsibility you give them. Afterwards, congratulate your child with a big high five and remind them how amazing it is that you cooked and washed the dishes together.
8. Bring them on an excursion
Visit places where you can find and pick seasonal fruits and vegetables on their branches (or underground). Children will love to see the nature God has made and will probably want to bite in the fruits they find. It is also a great time to remind them how much God loves us and made this nature for us to enjoy, to be healthy and happy.
9. Plant seeds with them
You can plant and cultivate food in a yard or even inside the home. Purchase small pots, soil, and seeds by explaining to them what it will be used for. Then plant seeds together and watch the plants grow over time. This is a good way to make your children appreciate nature and the good food we get from it.
10. Watch food documentaries together
When your kids are old enough, you can watch food documentaries with them (that you previously watched and approved!)
11. Bring them to the farmer’s market
Make a small budget and have your kids choose a few fruits and vegetables. Make it a happy and enthusiastic moment. They will probably want to try some of them once arrived at home.
12. Bring your children to the library
You can find interesting cookbooks with healthy recipes that your children will want to try. You can also try to find children’s books with food adventures.
13. Create or join a group of like-minded parents
Set up playdates and discuss on how to improve school food policies, share a garden, organize easy cooking activities with your kids, and go to field trips.
14. Spend more time in nature
Explain to your children how things in nature were made. You can take your Bible or a children’s Bible and read some verses about nature to them. If you have some knowledge about what is the purpose of something in nature, share it with your children. Go to a farm, a park, a beach or any place in nature where you can observe animals, flowers and/or trees, and show them how amazing God’s creation is.
15. Don’t be discouraged and don’t discourage your children
Be patient, kind and encouraging. Don’t tell children how bad eaters they are. It will only discourage them and frustrate them. In their minds, they might end up seeing healthy food as their enemy. On the contrary, encourage them, and praise even the smallest effort they make. Don’t even talk about their bad eating habits to others in front of them. But if you have to talk to a doctor about it in front of them, do it intelligently with words that will not hurt your children feelings.
16. Watch out for eating disorders
If a child has eating disorders avoid shaming or calling them obese or skinny. Criticizing won’t do any good. Pay attention to their behavior and encourage them in eating healthier by introducing all the activities mentioned above. If an eating disorder is severe, you might want to consult a specialist with your child.
It is of course easier said than done, but with earnest prayer, faith, goodwill, and patience you and your children will soon develop an incredible enjoyment of the food God has made for humankind.