Parents need to get creative to get children to finish food. But here's why offering rewards won't work, according to several studies!
Even on the busiest of days, you strive to make sure your kids are getting the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. These nutrients are especially plentiful in vegetables, but what if your child dislikes them? How can you get children to finish food — especially their veggies — without resorting to begging or bribing?
Some parents prefer to “trick” their picky eater by sneaking veggies into meals. Some mums and dads incentivise eating vegetables by promising rewards to their kids.
A 2016 study believes the latter strategy works, claiming kids kept eating their veggies months after their mums and dads stopped giving them rewards. However, this strategy was only a short-term solution.
To get children to finish food, don’t merely offer rewards
When trying to get children to finish food, particularly vegetables, repeated exposure can be the best way to truly change their eating habits.
Yes, serving them the same hated veggies again and again might be a recipe for frustration, but it can be the best hack for picky eaters.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition back in 2003 explored the differences brought about by reward-based and exposure-based interventions.
Cartoon stickers were promised to the reward-based group of kids, aged five to 11, for eating a vegetable. Researchers promised no rewards to the exposure-based group of kids.
What they found was that repeated taste exposure to a certain food encouraged kids to like the food more. And incentives didn’t do much good.
A 2004 study echoed these findings, saying that toddlers might need to be exposed to a certain unfamiliar vegetable for up to 15 times until they accepted it.
The latest study published in the Journal Food Quality and Preference explored the role of repeated exposure in picky eater behaviours.
By analysing the behaviour of preschool children, they found no significant differences made by offering rewards.
Get children to finish food with these mum hacks!
As early as their first experience with solids, your little one is already forming an attitude towards food.
A 2017 study found that early familiarisation with certain types of food influences long-term eating habits.
As they learn about how foods taste, children are also forming their own preferences.
To build healthier eating habits, kids must have a healthy attitude towards food
There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to fussy eaters, but building a healthy attitude towards food surely helps.
Here’s how to start helping your picky eater be more open to new experiences!
Strive not to let your frustrations show. Your picky eater is observing you and seeing you upset might cause them to feel less inclined to eat meals you are offering.
Don’t let them snack too much
Karen Le Billon, author of French Kids Eat Everything, recommends that parents discourage frequent snacking. Why? Keeping kids from snacking too much between meals makes them hungrier… and more open to trying new food!
Make it exciting
Kids are more motivated to try experiences they’re excited about. Announce your meal plan by putting up a fun menu in your kitchen.
Take them shopping
Spending time in the produce aisle helps build a healthy relationship with food. This will make shopping for groceries a fun learning and bonding experience.
Revamp their faves
Do your kids love kebabs? Why not add some veggies to skewers? Simply serving delicious veggie-based dishes can do the trick. Here are some recipes to try!
Don’t promise alternatives
By making non-vegetable substitutes available, kids tend will tend to refuse until they get their way.
Try to make new dishes a habit
Cook with your family and make preparing healthy food with new ingredients a fun experience.
Make it fancy
Make mealtimes a fun, fancy experience — this can mean giving them their own plates and cutlery — and they won’t even mind that veggies are on the menu!
Try new foods yourself
Showing your kids that you are open to trying new foods can inspire them to do the same. They are, after all, mummy and daddy’s biggest fans!
Be patient, mums and dads! Making sure your fussy eater grows up happy and healthy can be challenging, but with a little creativity (and persistence) your picky eater will be craving healthy food in no time!