Why do we eat what we eat?

Child Caring Online - information about the Child and Adult Care Food Program

Why do we eat what we eat?

Healthy food habits are formed during the preschool years. During these years, children watch the manners, eating behaviors, and food likes and dislikes of others. As a child care provider, you can help the children form healthy food habits and expose them to new foods.

The child’s family and community may help shape a child’s food likes and dislikes. The children in your care may come from many different backgrounds. They may like foods different from what you are used to eating.

Because the children in your care come to you with different food experiences, how can you offer a variety of nutritious foods they will enjoy? As always, talking with the parents is important. Ask parents how they prepare foods at home and what their children like and dislike. Make a written note of this information. Develop a plan to introduce new and nutritious foods. Here are some ideas for introducing new foods as well as activities and recipes using cultural and regional foods.

Tips for introducing new foods

  • Introduce new foods gradually.

  • Talk about the new food ahead of time.

  • Offer a small amount.

  • Offer new foods with familiar foods.

  • Don’t make a fuss if they refuse.

  • Offer it again – the more times they’re exposed to a new food, the more likely they are to accept it.

  • Remember that children go through stages of liking and disliking the same food.

  • Let parents know they have tried a new food.

  • Remember that young children tend to imitate others – they learn by both planned activities and unplanned examples. This can be a disadvantage when others – parents, providers and children – show dislike for certain foods. Remember to set a good example. You also can turn this imitation tendency to your advantage when a child sees others eating new or nutritious foods.

Fun with food

Have children bring in ethnic or other favorite family recipes from home. Have parents, grandparents or someone else visit your home or center to prepare food, tell stories, share music, and lead games from other cultures or regions.

Visit the library to learn about the food of other cultures. Share books and stories about other cultures.

Use holidays to combine to combine ideas, food and traditions from different cultures and backgrounds. For example, at Thanksgiving, share different American foods and how they began.

Discuss where food comes from – countries and region. Example: Peanuts grow in America, China and Africa. In Africa, they are called groundnuts. The peanut first grew in South America and was carried to the other continents. In the United States, peanuts are grown in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia and the Carolinas.

Grow plants like peanuts, alfalfa sprouts and green beans from seeds.

Read and discuss the story Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. This is a story about a character who would not try green eggs and ham until he was convinced to eat them by Sam-I-Am. He eventually tried them and liked them. Make green eggs by adding chopped parsley or spinach to scrambled eggs.

Have a taste testing party. hints for taste testing: You’ll have a greater chance of success with kids liking the food if no one is allowed to taste the sample until ALL samples of that food are passed out. That way, the youngsters won’t refuse to try a new food because the first child disliked it. And remember, set a good example and taste the food right along with them. It’s a good idea always to sit down to eat with the children to enjoy the food and their company and to set an example.

Send new recipes home with children so parents will be aware of foods they have tried at child care. Parents can use the recipes at home.

Make “I tasted it!” badges for the children to wear when they try new foods. Shape badges like the new food with a bite out of it. Children can help make the badges.

Let the children make a collage or drawings of favorite foods and holiday customs. These could be individual or made into a mural on newsprint.

Involve children in food preparation.

learn more about age appropriate activities

Updated August 22, 2017 7:10pm