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Child & Adult Care Food Program

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Developing positive attitudes toward food

We probably all wish at some time that we had the same power to influence children's food choices that food companies seem to have in television advertising directed to the child audiences.

Personnel in group feeding settings with children may be doing better than they think at influencing children's attitudes about food. Children are very good at picking up unspoken clues from the adults around them. Their attitudes toward food are formed by what they see around them. Children are great imitators.

You are sending some nonverbal messages every day to help children develop positive attitudes toward food when you do some of the following:

Eat and enjoy the same foods the children are served. Children really notice if the grownups choose to eat different foods, or if they have negative feelings about the regular menu.

Give a warm and welcoming smile to each child who comes to your dining area. A pleasant eating environment creates positive feelings about the food served there. We can't control all of the environmental factors, but we can make eaters feel comfortable.

Demonstrate that foods that are "good for us" actually taste good. We do this when our balanced, nutritious meals and snacks are well prepared and look appealing. It's a myth that foods either taste good OR are good for us.

Provide a mix of familiar and new foods. Just like the rest of our lives, most of us feel happiest with a combination of foods we know and like and occasional surprise to keep things from getting boring.

Respect each child's right to decide what and how much he or she will eat. Food times should be enjoyable, and pressuring a child only drives him into rebellion or sullen submission. If good food is offered, most of the child's decisions will be okay and he or she will have a more positive attitude about the food and about self.

The best attitude that anyone can have is a belief that food times are fun times, that there is an infinite variety of food colors, flavors and textures that are tasty and enjoyable, socializing over food is pleasant and food choices do affect the way one looks and feels. Although parents, friends and advertising media expose children to other messages, out-of-home nonverbal messages can play an important role in improving attitudes toward food.

Source: Food and Nutrition Bulletin, Maryland Department of Education


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