By Kayla Johnson, MS, RD, LDN at Camp Shane
The average person has roughly 10,000 taste buds, and they are constantly changing. They are replaced about every 2 weeks, with the potential to accept new flavors! However, they will never get the opportunity to accept new flavors or foods if not given the chance.
Countless kids come to camp with a predetermined list of healthy foods that they will and will not eat. Carrots, broccoli, fish, spaghetti sauce, beans, corn, chicken, mushrooms, zucchini, lentils, and salad are just a handful of the foods that kids report not liking or not eating. Most often this seems to be a result of a lack of variety in their at-home diets. Life can be hectic with school, sports, clubs, multiple children and jobs; it is difficult to keep up with everything. There is nothing wrong with having somewhat of a static menu at home to keep the chaos to a minimum. Unfortunately, too much of a regimented meal schedule may contribute to kids being picky eaters and actually having a lower nutrient intake, that’s why it’s important to constantly try and introduce new foods for healthy eating into your child’s life.
Studies have demonstrated taste is truly acquired. If you are exposed to certain kinds of food over and over again, you will begin to prefer them—even if there are not so good for you. If we allow ourselves and our kids to nix multiple foods from the diet, we will end up feeling limited in options, and more importantly, limited in nutrients.
Healthy Eating & The Importance of a Rainbow Plate
Did you know that the various colors of food are there for a reason? Not for visual appeal, but nutrients differ depending on the color of the food, and having a variety of colors on our plate can help keep us on track with healthy eating. Red bell peppers, tomatoes, raspberries beets, and strawberries, for example, are packed with antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin A, manganese, and fiber; which makes them particularly good for heart health. Additionally, watermelon, red grapefruit, and tomatoes are packed with lycopene, a compound that may help fight cancer.
On the other hand, Green foods such as spinach, broccoli, asparagus, kale, and green peppers contain larger amounts of lutein and folate. These nutrients help in cell reproduction and prevent neural tube defects in infants. Both sets of nutrients are vital to life and wellbeing; however, they exist in different quantities depending on the food eaten. Likewise, purple foods have a different set of nutrients than orange, white, or yellow. Each color serves a distinct purpose in promoting positive health. No one food can provide us with a wide variety of nutrients needed. Eating a rainbow of colors can help ensure we get the variety we need. Plus, bright colors make food more fun to eat!
Studies show that kids who keep trying even just a single bite of a new, healthy food that they dislike (think: those Brussels sprouts) will eventually lose that aversion! Consistency is key, try new recipes with those ingredients you’re finding it hard to get your child to eat. Maybe a new sauce, seasoning or method of preparation will change their mind! Eating healthier and training your taste buds happens over time, especially when dealing with children, but it’s never too late to implement a new, healthy habit!