Between three and four years of age, children can begin to comprehend which foods are the most nutritious and why. We would often say to our children, “Eat the food that makes you grow first and then you can have your fun food.” “Grow” foods would be veggies, grains, fish, fruit, salads, and cereals. While wise parents make sure that “grow” foods are also fun foods, the “fun” category in a child’s mind can also include a little cake, ice cream, and apple pie. One of the moms in our pediatric practice trained her child to eat almost all healthy food, to the extent that when a piece of junk food found its way into their home, the child saw this food as a foreign intruder. Since the mom, Kathy, called the healthy food “grow food,” her son Matthew learned to think of it as “grow food” also. One day four-year-old Matthew found some white bread in their otherwise whole wheat home (a sandwich left by one of his friends). Matthew asked his mom why his friend ate white bread, “Doesn’t she need to grow anymore?”
Make “grow foods”, or healthy foods, relevant to your child’s interests. Call healthy foods “soccer foods”, “baseball foods”, or “ballet foods” and emphasize the fact that these foods will help your child excel in his or her preferred interests.