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Help children develop positive attitude towards healthy food

By Faith Kariuki Biongo | May 31st 2015

I recently hosted some friends for lunch with a view to wow them with my culinary skills and treat them to a four course meal.

I spent a considerable amount of time making cream of pumpkin soup to serve as the appetiser. I was, however, disappointed when my guests politely declined serve the soup and went directly to the main course.

They observed that pumpkins were for children and noted that  they consumed far too much when they were younger. One of them said the sight of a pumpkin can leave him nauseated.

Funny thing is, none could remember the last time they had fed on one.

The thing is, children can form positive or negative food associations depending on their experience with that biting.

As they interact with foods, they begin to form life-long food associations that will affect their eating habits in the future.

It is common in Kenya to find families that feed children on pumpkins everyday until they are old enough   to share the family meal.

After a long discussion with my guests I realised the problem was not the pumpkins or how they taste, but the association they formed because they had been forced to feed on them when they were young.

Because of this monotony, meal time became a chored that was  more often than not accompanied with a pinch here and there as one was ordered to swallow.

If a child gets in trouble for not eating a particular food, for instance vegetables or for not drinking water, they will associate that food with getting in trouble.

Later on, subconsciously, they may shy away from those particular foods because they give them unhappy memories.

If you keep feeding your child on the same diet, they will hate food, and meal time will often be a struggle that leaves you and your child exhausted and in a foul mood.

It is important to help children form positive associations with healthy foods.

If you want your child to learn how to eat healthier foods, you will have to do more than just telling them what to eat.

Do not show your children that you are getting frustrated or upset if they do not want to eat a certain type of food. This will only make mealtimes miserable for both parties and will not improves the child's eating habits.

Trying to force children to eat certain foods will not help them either. Remember, you do not want to win the battle, you want to win the war.

Patience and persistence are the keys to your success.

Keep your child involved and try repeated exposure to that particular food they are not fond of.

Children learn through observation and emulation so be a great role model and show your children how much you enjoy fruits and vegetables and other foods they dislike.

Do not nag them in to eating that particular food; if you do, they will view this as punishment.

Help your child associate fun and good memories with eating these foods. No food should be used as a reward as they may grow up thinking that is a very good food that should be eaten each time one does good.

It is also important to avoid stocking the house with fatty and sugary foods to avoid competition with your healthy choices.

Helping your child develop healthy eating habits is the foundation to their overall health.

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