Southern Utah University senior nutrition majors Sarah Lundin and Brooke Jorgensen said that they were required to do a nutrition intervention project in the community for their community nutrition class. Having grown up in homes with siblings who were choosy about their cuisine, both girls said that they chose to use picky eating as their topic in hopes of offering parents some new ideas to help convince their children that new foods were worth trying, and in turn help them get the nutrition that picky eaters are sometimes deprived of.
To start of the evening’s discussion, USU Extension nutrition education assistant Danielle Wenn shared the newest USDA standard “My Plate” with attendees. She said the standard was implemented around 2010, because many people had difficulty deciphering the pyramid standard.
“When someone looked at the pyramid and saw that they should have six cups of grains it made it difficult for people to measure,” Wenn said. “People would say ‘Well, I don’t know how much six cups should look like’ so they would just get frustrated and give up.”
The brightly colored, easy to understand, “My Plate” guide makes portion ideas much easier to quantify by splitting the plate into four slightly unequal sections that include fruits and vegetables, protein and grains, plus an additional section outside of the plate that includes dairy.
As the evening moved on and the students took over and engaged the audience in conversation, it quickly became obvious that the biggest problem parents in the room were facing was how to get their children to eat their ever-evasive veggies.
Lundin said that getting young ones involved in preparing new foods that they are about to try is one effective way to get a skeptical child to try foods they may be leery of. Since all children are different however, she said not to be discouraged if that does not work, but instead to make a deal with the reluctant eater that they only have to try one bite.
Jorgensen said that often times if a child is exposed to a new food a multiple of times, on separate occasions, they will eventually begin to like it and even ask for it at mealtime. She said she grew up in a home with picky siblings and the one bite rule works most times as long as her parents stayed consistent.
Some other ideas included mixing the food of interest into other foods so they are no longer predominant on the plate; not mentioning how picky they are in front of them before presenting a new food; and plating foods in fun and imaginative ways. Turning a sandwich into puzzle pieces with a fun shaped cookie cutter, or building a banana person with chocolate chip eyes, and pretzel arms and legs were just a couple of the fun ideas shared that evening.
Of all of the information shared at the picky eaters seminar Wednesday evening, Wenn said that she believed the most important thing parents should have taken away from the experience was the importance of not giving up.
“Just try your best and don’t give up,” she said. “If you think you’re a failure at parenting, because your kid will only eat certain things, you’re not, just try different things and don’t let consume your life.”
More information about healthy eating is available at extension.usu.edu/foodsense