Picky Eaters: How to Encourage Healthy Habits

Episode Transcript:

Today on the PE Express podcast, we will talk about how to introduce healthy foods to the picky eater. Today we’re going to share some tips on encouraging families and how they promote healthy choices for their students. Getting students to eat healthier starts at home. Joining me today is Karen Brunell, Texas PTA healthy lifestyle liaison. Thanks for joining me, Karen. I know we’ve talked a lot over the years about healthy choices. I have quite a few units in my physical education class where I tried to reinforce healthy eating, but it’s just as important to get buy in from parents as well.

What tips do you have to encourage parents and to get to that picky eater?

Karen: Thanks for having me, Chris. Um, I recently wrote an article for the Texas PTA Voice Digital magazine and it was titled from SpaghettiOs to spaghetti squash. I wrote it that way because I grew up in the era of junk food. Um, the term junk food actually dates back to the 1950’s, but it was really coined in the 1970’s and when that generation was facing large amounts of junk food. So to say I was a picky eater was an understatement. So fortunately my career path took me towards working with registered dietitians and wellness resources for schools. So through all my personal journey and professional tips, I have a couple of ideas to help parents work with their children.

So the first tip is realization. Um, basically, wow, is this stuff really food? Many of us might’ve heard to shop the perimeter and that’s because where you’re going to find all the fresh items, produce meat, milk products all around the outside of the grocery store and then the nonperishable more prepackaged foods are on the inside. Those generally have more than one ingredient and probably ones that you cannot pronounce. So the first step in realizing what actually is healthy and what is not and that can mean different things to different people. So just basically stick to as natural as possible and don’t get caught up into too many fad diets.

The second tip is education. You know, we see hot topic wording for manufacturers, but we’re not really reading the labels. Ingredients are listed in descending order from largest amounts to the next largest and so on. There are 61 names of sugar, so there are lots of confusing things to look for.

The next step is investing, meaning investing the time. And that doesn’t mean meal prepping of just chicken and broccoli for an entire week. It could be as simple as cooking a chicken on the weekend and using the leftovers for chicken soup or chicken salad during the week. There are also savvy grocery store shopping apps um, but my old school paper list includes meals coming up for the week, the ingredients that I need and other things that I’m running out of. So those are just some other tips for making time to meal plan.

Chris: Karen, that’s some great tips for the grocery store. But what are some suggestions when they don’t eat the food that you buy?

Karen: So my next tip is all about training. Uh, we do a lot of training with physical activity, but we also need to train our taste buds. So a couple of my steps are taking baby steps, looking for things lower in sugar but not with artificial sugars. Use more spices or herbs instead of salt. The key is just to tip toe in so your tastebuds can adjust easier.

Second, try, try again. It actually takes the body 10 to 15 times to see, smell or taste a new food before it decides if it likes it or not.

Third, make it a money bite. This is a big hit in my house to combine something you dislike with something you do just makes it easier to go down.

Fourth, mix it up. Combine one flavor bag of oatmeal with a regular bag or mix brown rice with white rice or regular noodles with spaghetti squash. Those are ways to mix it.

So my last tip is modeling. Eating as a family is so important, but it’s also how we eat in front of our family. We want to set a good example, so consider the faces you make in front of your kids or the words you use to describe foods. We also have a no thank you bite at my house. Everyone has to try one bite before they can say no thank you.

Karen, thanks for joining me today. If you have any additional questions for Karen, you can email her at healthylifestyles@TXPTA.org.

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