My son will eat many raw veggies, which is great! However, he only eats mac and cheese for lunch and has to have noodles with his dinner. He will eat small portions of meat/fish, but eats very few beans and nothing “mixed:” no soups, casseroles, etc. Help!! How can I expand his eating horizons?
Many children have the same devotion to noodles as your son does. Noodles are comforting, filling, and often are served to kids covered in cheese sauce or sweet tomato sauce—what’s not to love?! However, white noodles intrinsically have little nutritional value to offer. It’s important to slowly but surely add some variety to your son’s diet. Here are some ideas:
Let him help choose the menu, with your guidance. Obviously, with free rein your son will probably choose noodles for every meal, so your guidance will be crucial. Suggest other foods you know he likes. You’ll want to set some boundaries to help wean him off of the noodles: maybe start by serving pasta only once a day, and then maybe only every other day. By involving him in the process of choosing alternatives, he’ll be more open to adding new dishes to his repertoire.
- Get him involved in the preparation and cooking process. If you have access to a garden at home, this is the best place to start! Kids at the Barn can’t wait to try the vegetables that they plant and harvest, even if it’s something new. And if you can’t grow food at home, bring him along to the grocery store and turn grocery shopping into a mini-lesson about new foods. If you want him to eat beans, try buying them dry and let him watch how big they get after they’re soaked and cooked! The more he knows about where food comes from, the better.
- Keep him in the loop about his food. One of my theories about getting kids to try new foods is that I actually don’t like to “hide” them in stews or casseroles. Children deserve to be educated not just about where their food comes from but what their food is. Of course, if you want him to appreciate foods like stews or casseroles, which is how many dishes are served, have him participate in adding the ingredients, so they start as something identifiable before coming part of a whole new dish. Also, begin with something familiar, like chicken noodle soup (we know he likes noodles!). Each time you serve it add something new, like carrots, then parsnips, then celery until a veggie-licious soup is his new normal!
- Pizza party! A great tool to introduce kids to new foods is by way of pizza. Kids love pizza, and therefore are more willing to take risks when something is on top of a pizza. My whole wheat pizza dough is always a winner. Turn pizza making into an art project, drawing faces or shapes with the veggie toppings.
- Go whole wheat. While a diet that subsists mostly of pasta is not a good thing, I have no problem with pasta itself. When serving pasta, try to look for whole grain pastas or soba noodles, which will provide more fiber and protein than white flour pasta. This should keep everyone full and satisfied!
Let’s not overlook that he loves eating many raw veggies! Serve sliced veggies with each meal and snack to boost his nutrition and fiber intake. And, if he doesn’t like his food touching (like so many children) buy him a plate with compartments he can model it after USDA’s MyPlate and help him to choose foods and beverages from the five food groups for each meal.
– Stacey Antine, MS RD, author, Appetite for Life, founder, HealthBarn USA, co-host, Family Food Expert Internet Radio Show, and recognized as top 10 dietitians nationally by Today’s Dietitian magazine for her work with HealthBarn USA