Early in the 20th century, advertisers found success promoting products to children. This expanded in the 1950s and 1960s, with the growth of television and the promotion of special meals for kids as part of the growing fast-food industry.
Considering the number of ads people see and hear today on the Internet, video games and social media, it’s not surprising that many people believe that children need to eat different foods than adults.
It’s true that children may not like the taste of a food the first few times they try it and that they naturally like sweet and salty foods. But over time kids can learn to like a variety of foods and flavors.
Children like to explore and have fun. If given the opportunity, they may enjoy exploring the wide variety of foods offered on restaurant menus and have fun finding new foods to try at the grocery store or farmers’ market.
Here are a few ways to encourage your children to eat different types of foods:
- Make the same meal for all family members. If children are routinely expected to eat the same healthy foods as the rest of the family, they will learn to like these foods. On the other hand, if children are allowed to demand pizza when everyone else is having spaghetti, the stage is set to encourage picky eating.
- Be a role model. Children learn from their parents. If you are willing to taste foods that are new to you, there’s a good chance that your children will be, too.
- Make trying new foods interesting. Explore the standard adult menu at a restaurant with your child to see what they might like to try. In many restaurants there is enough food in a single adult order to feed you and your child so you might want to share an entree.
- Encourage but don’t force children to try new foods. Studies have shown that children are more likely to eat foods if they are not forced to eat them.
- Buy healthy foods and beverages that you want your family to eat. If children are hungry and the only foods available for snacks are healthy foods such as fruit, raw veggies, low-fat milk and whole grain cereal, then they will choose a healthy snack. Similarly, children are more likely to drink low-fat milk, juice and water when there are no sugary beverages to choose from.
- Plan meals and prepare foods with children. Children enjoy tasting and eating foods that they helped to plan or prepare. Even young children can help decide which green vegetable to have with a meal or stir a fruit salad. Plus, they are learning how to plan and prepare meals in the process.
- Grow foods together. Children also are more likely to taste and eat foods that they help to grow. Even if it’s just a container garden with a tomato plant or leafy greens children will learn how vegetables grow and your family will have fresh veggies to eat.
- It’s easy to see why certain foods are popular with children when you consider the influence of advertising and children’s natural preference for sweet and salty foods. But no matter how it may appear, kids’ food is a myth born in the 20th century.