How Japanese Parents Teach Their Kids Not To Be Picky Eaters

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Have you been struggling with making your child eat a balanced diet? You probably wouldn’t even be surprised to know that it’s a common phenomenon in most households. While kids are quick to finish their favorite snacks, chocolates, ice creams, and other junk food, when it comes to eating the healthy stuff, they would find all excuses not to eat them. Children are fussy eaters in general and as parents, it’s up to us to ensure that they are meeting their nutritional needs.

But how do you give your child the nutrition they require when they are hell-bent on giving you a hard time during mealtimes? Well, this is where Japanese parents can teach us a lot. They seem to have a few tricks up their sleeve that can turn fussy eaters into obedient ones. If you’re worried about your child’s eating habits, these genius tips may help, so read on:

Make The Act Of Eating Enjoyable

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For a lot of parents, getting their child to eat can be nothing short of a nightmare. And for children too, mealtime can be quite dreadful if it always ends in disagreement. So, instead of making the whole process complicated and force-feeding your child, make it more enjoyable, just like a game. You could add more colorful foods to the menu or set the table in fun ways. Even doing something as simple as drawing a smiley face on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich could go a long way in making mealtimes more enjoyable for your child. Your little one will start looking forward to the eating sessions more and end up eating well in the process.

Make It A Family Thing

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Eating meals together is an important ritual in Japanese culture. Eat at least one meal as a family. When your child sees that every family member is involved in the process of eating, they too would want to be involved. This way, they will also pick up good eating manners from the adults around them. Ensure that you have one of the meals, maybe dinner, with everyone at home. If your little one is able to sit straight, you could even get them a kids’ seat at the table. To be able to sit among the adults and eat with everyone will automatically inspire your kid to enjoy and savor the food like the rest.

Give Them Their Food On Smaller Plates

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The next time you serve food to your child, do so on a smaller plate. When you give them food on a big plate, even if the portions are small, they may get intimidated. In fact, Japanese parents often get their children to serve their own portions. This way, they are the best judge of how much they need. It also allows them to choose what goes into their plates. The amount of food you’ve served for your kid may seem normal and appropriate to you, but your child may not feel the same. It could also happen that they felt stuffed the last time you fed them a certain amount of food. So, go easy on the portions next time and use a plate that is smaller in size.

Be Active Throughout The Day

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People in Japan often cycle or walk around, mainly if the distance to be covered is a short one. Also, Japanese parents often encourage their kids to jump and dance around. Do the same with your kids. Physical activity can work wonders for their appetite. When children sit on the couch all day and play video games or fiddle with smartphones, there isn’t much physical activity involved. And this can be unhealthy for them. Instead, take them outdoors and encourage them to play. If the grocery store is around the corner, avoid taking a vehicle and walk instead. Run an errand with your child. Try to incorporate at least thirty minutes to an hour of physical activity daily.

Allow Them Their Occasional Treats

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It’s true that a well-balanced diet that contains all forms of nutrients is crucial for your child. You need to ensure that your child gets enough protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Vegetables and fruits are, therefore, labeled “superfoods” for your child. That said, it’s okay to sneak in an occasional treat from time to time too. Don’t deprive your child of fun foods such as a small bar of chocolate or a pastry. Children will naturally be drawn to tasty junk food and you can’t make them not love their favorite food items. But you can exercise moderation and keep a healthy balance in what they consume.

Let Them Experiment With Food

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When it comes to food, there are plenty of choices. Introduce your child to different flavors and aromas. A lot of Japanese parents take this very seriously by adding a variety of tastes to one meal, such as sweet, salty, umami, and sour. In fact, the word “umami” itself is a Japanese word that refers to types of foods that are savory in nature. Studies have shown that children who are exposed to a wide array of foods turn into adults who opt for a healthier diet in the long run (1). When we assume that children dislike healthy food options, we might not be entirely correct. There is always a chance that there are certain food choices out there that they may actually like. As parents, you have to put in the effort at finding out those food items. And this can be done only when you try and experiment more.

Moreover, children can get bored when you give them the same kind of food regularly. So, try introducing them to different vegetables, foods, and dishes, so their tastes develop. This, in turn, will help with their interest in food.

Remember to be patient with your child. Children can be fussy eaters but know that things will turn around eventually. Take things slowly, make an effort to introduce them to new foods, involve the whole family during mealtime, and make eating an enjoyable thing to do. Do you have more to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!


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  1. Early Taste Experiences and Later Food Choices

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