How I Got My Kids To Eat Healthy Meals (Especially Healthy Meat)
My children today are voracious eaters of everything. They eat meaty, and eat with gusto. My daughter’s favorite meats are lambchops and marrow, my son’s are steak and broth. We do occasionally have hotdogs and processed meats, but my kids mostly eat natural meat cuts.
How Not to have Picky Eaters
Below are the top 6 tactics I used to get them to eat this way. Caveat: I do not have a large sample size of data on this method (two kids).
- I started by serving them everything and did not make any special kids meals after baby food. No foods were “too adult” in preparation or taste and I used no specifically “kid” food in my kitchen (animal shaped pastas etc). From what I had read as a new mom, exposure to more was good, even if they did not like it.
- I teethed both my children on natural animal bones. When my daughter started teething, I bought all the teething stuff recommended online and nearly all of it was plastic. I realized she preferred bones over the teething toys, particularly chicken drumsticks and lamb chops with the meat cut off.
- I have never offered substitutes for any food, and only offered one type of each thing at the meal. If dinner on Tuesday was bone marrow, pasta, and roasted veggies, they could have as much as they wanted but that was it. If they wanted steak instead, they’d have to wait another day.
- I never required a “clean plate” rules but asked that they eat 5 bites of everything on their plate. My thinking is that meals and food should be a joy not a chore. Also, if they felt full, they should stop eating.
- I engaged my kids in the prep process. Meats are fun and easy for kids to be involved with. Salting, seasoning, and marinating are quick and fun for kids, with a lot of room for personal taste.
- I started them on solid foods at 3 months, with soft meats and broths in their diet routine.
Research on Shaping Food Preferences for Kids suggests: Sample them on Everything, Many Times.
If the research tells us anything it’s that you should keep trying different foods with your kids.
Offer a variety and keep offering the things they may not have liked before again and again. Experimental studies illustrate that kids are more likely to eat everything if they are exposed as infants and young children repeatedly to new foods, these studies suggest that young children need to be exposed to a novel food 6 - 15 times before they like it! So, don’t give up after one try.
Food preferences are mostly learned – very little is innate - but dislike is the main reason parents stop offering or serving their children diverse foods and end up in the chicken nugget trap..
Also: you are the example for everything, mom and dad! A study published last year showed that a positive example set by both the mother and the father promotes the consumption of new foods. So probably my exuberant meat consumption has A LOT to do with how my kids slurp up their marrow and liver, but take my example as a message to live by example with your nutritional choices.
- From our Cofounder and Board Chair, Anya Fernald. Anya has two kids aged 4 and 8.