When I was 14 year old, my younger brother was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes. I distinctly remember the diabetic educators and nursing staff working to teach my parents and family how to make lifestyle and dietary adjustments necessary to help my brother manage this difficult disease. That experience greatly influenced my decision to become a nurse and stirred my desire to become diabetic educator. I became aware at a very young age that I loved to educate others and more importantly to help them make both meaningful and sustainable changes that will help them manage, or even prevent disease.
Families with young children are some of my favorite clients. Many parents tell me their child is a “picky eater”. Some parents do not like to cook. Families schedules are busy. Children have learned where they can take charge in making independent decisions. For all of these reasons working with families can also be challenging. As a mother of two girls, I have personal experience working through all these potential road blocks and love coming up with creative solutions for each individual client.
Muffin pan taste testing and buffets are one solution that has worked with my family and many of my clients. The methodology works because children like to be given choices. They feel empowered, in control, and independent. I recommend using this both for helping introduce new foods or foods that a child has not tried in a while, and for allowing children to fill their own plate for a meal or snack. I do not force even my own children to eat things they do not like. But I do want them eating healthy foods i.e. fruits, vegetables, and packaged foods that have healthy ingredient lists. How do we know if we do or do not like things? We have to try them!
The tasting process is simple. Fill a muffin pan with twelve different foods. I like to do three vegetables, three fruits, three healthy fats and proteins, and three crunchy or snack foods. During the taste testing children can use a note taking system to help track what they do like. The notes can then be used by parents to create meal plans and grocery lists. My only rule with the taste test is that everyone has to take one bite of everything.
Make the tasting testing fun! One thing becomes more apparent as I research and work with more families: By the time a child’s palate is more accepting of healthy foods, they are negatively associated with parental nagging – an altogether different mood to that of the fun occasions when enjoying sweet treats. My brother was 6 when he was diagnosed with Type I. The process of making major lifestyle changes was not fun, but mandatory! It took him many years to accept eating healthy foods rather than resenting them. Please contact me if I can help with this educational process. I also have a wonderful referral network if you need reinforcements.
Sidenote: I love this stainless steel muffin pan! If possible, choose stainless steel over non-stick to minimize toxin exposure. For when you’re making real muffins, I love these unbleached parchment paper muffin cups available here or at Whole Foods and Central Market.