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“Devonte, why are you just staring at your plate? You used to love bananas,” his mother exclaimed as he slumped into his chair.
“This banana looks weird and smells funny,” Devonte responded.
Devonte’s mother did not like this excuse and continued, “Well, if you don’t eat it, you can’t watch your show and there won’t be any other snacks served.”
Devonte sighed and took a long look at the banana before starting to pick at it. He still would not eat it.
Does this situation feel familiar? Feeding picky kids and reversing picky eating are long-term processes. We are here to offer a helping hand. Here is our manual to help you teach your child to eat bananas. We’ll explain:
- The benefits of bananas for kids
- How to serve bananas to picky eaters
- How to talk about bananas to help your child try them
- How to help your child understand what bananas do in their body
- A food activity that will help your picky eater get more comfortable with bananas
The Benefits of Bananas for Kids
Bananas contain fiber, which supports the gut health of your child. In the body, fiber helps soften poop and can help to relieve constipation and help with regular bowel movements.
Bananas also contain high amounts of potassium. Potassium is used to regulate blood pressure and assist with muscle contractions (movements).
Considering these nutritional benefits, it is understandable that Devonte’s mother wanted him to eat the banana.
How to Serve Bananas to Picky Eaters
Varying the ways you serve foods to picky eaters can help prevent them from getting stuck in a rut. For instance, if you only serve bananas in sliced rounds, your child may not want to eat bananas when offered whole. In general, you can add variety by serving foods raw or cooked, whole or chopped. Bananas can be chopped in different sizes, sliced in rounds, halved lengthwise or chopped into chunks. Mashed bananas can be added to many baked goods, from cookies to muffins.
In addition, serving small micro portions of new foods can help selective children gradually feel more comfortable with them. If your child won’t eat bananas, you can try offering a fingernail-size piece of banana with a meal. Micro portions can be less intimidating to children than larger servings.
Lastly, when introducing a new food to a child, we recommend that you avoid putting pressure on them to eat.
Consider the incident with Devonte and his mother. She made it clear that he wouldn’t be able to watch one of his favorite shows if he didn’t eat the banana she had served. After that added pressure, Devonte decided to do nothing – including eating the banana.
Bananas, like many other fruits, can vary in texture and flavor depending on the ripeness. Any of these factors can cause a child to refuse to eat it. Regardless of the reason, keep serving it to your child.
There are many ways a caregiver may unintentionally apply pressure on their child to eat. Here are a few examples:
“Just take one bite, pretty please!”
“I’m not saying you have to eat the ENTIRE food. Just take an itsy bitsy bite for me.”
“You can’t have dessert because you won’t finish your plate.”
Next time, Devonte’s mom could offer him a greener (or more yellow) banana without trying to force him to eat it. Removing the pressure is a great way to help a child learn to like a new food at their own pace.
How to Talk About Bananas to Help Your Child Try Them:
When talking with fussy eaters, it is important to describe foods by their characteristics. Picky eaters tend to use negative language when referring to food, reinforcing their selective behaviors. In Devonte’s case he says, “This banana looks weird and smells funny.” A caregiver can help picky children reframe their minds by teaching them neutral words to describe food.
Speaking about food in a different way may not immediately make a child like Devonte try the food. However, it is one part of the strategy that will help picky eaters. Remaining neutral about a particular food can be hard, but give it a try! Here are neutral words you can use to talk about bananas:
- Yellow or green or both and sometimes with brown (outside)
- White/beige inside
- Small sound
- Medium smell
Devonte’s mother could say, “Bananas are yellow on the outside and white on the inside. They taste sweet.”
How to Help Your Child Understand What Bananas Does in Their Body
How we talk about foods with picky eaters can make it harder or easier for them to try a new food. The goal is to talk about food in a way that is both easy to understand and beneficial to your child.
Categorizing foods as “super foods” or “good foods” can make a child decide they don’t like “good foods” because they had a bad experience with one food that their parents categorized as “good food.”
Instead, focus on making connections between why we should eat bananas and what they have to offer their bodies.
When talking to a child with picky eating tendencies, it is important to recognize the words being used to describe the food, the context to which the food is being offered, and the non-verbal cues that are being expressed by the child. That may look like slumping in their chair, wrinkling their nose, or tensing their shoulders or fists.
Here are some suggestions on how to approach talking about bananas:
Age 0-3: Yellow foods like bananas help us poop.
Age 3-5: Bananas have something called fiber that helps us poop.
Age 6-11: The fiber in bananas is also found in other fruit. It helps make our stool (poop) soft so it easily comes out.
Age 12-18: Fiber plays a really big role in stomach health. Bananas contain fiber, and when we eat them, they help us have comfortable bowel movements.
During snack time Devonte’s mother could have said, “Bananas have lots of fiber, which helps our bodies poop.”
Banana Food Activity
Food play activities are a powerful tool to help kids learn to try new foods. A food activity desensitizes food to a child. Desensitizing is a process that can allow a child’s body to become less sensitive to food over time by making it more familiar. The more exposures to a food, including seeing the food, smelling it, or touching it, the more a child becomes desensitized to it.
Food play also helps a child feel less fearful of an unknown food. This helps avoid a fight or flight response.
Of course, this will not bring about instant results. Food play is another step in the larger strategy. Meet your child where they are and work your way up to more interactive food play activities.
If you would like more food activity ideas broken down by age of child (0 to 10-years-old) and stage of learning, you may enjoy our food activities guide: Food Play Every Day.
Here is one example of a food activity with bananas. You and your child are going to play a sorting game. Be sure to mention that this food activity is for having fun together. If your child is feeling apprehensive, reassure your child that there is no pressure for them to play if they do not want to.
Search and Sort
- A clean surface such as a plate or cutting board
- Bananas and a few other fruits and/or vegetables you have at home
- Large plate or tray
- Fun toothpicks, animal picks or a fork
- Separate containers for sorting
- Cut bananas and fruits into bite-sized pieces appropriate for your child’s age.
- Place cut fruits on a large plate or tray.
- Discuss rules for sorting criteria. You can categorize by color, shape, size, texture, or something else.
- Together, sort and separate fruits and vegetables into different categories using the fun toothpicks.
- You can ask your child to describe how the fruits are the same, or how they are different. Have fun!
Looking for more food play activities, see our Food Play Every Day ebook.
Thanks for Being Part of Our Community That’s Teaching Kids to Eat More Foods!
About Kids Eat in Color
Kids Eat in Color gives parents the tools they need to teach their kids to eat veggies and try foods without a battle! From introducing new foods to a picky eater, to reducing meal-time stress, to taking off some of the burdens of meal planning, shopping, and cooking, we are here for parents.
Jennifer Anderson, MSPH, RDN
Alli Delozier, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Laura Petix, M.S., OTR/L
Erinn Jacobi, M.S., OTR/L
Stefanie Kain, B.S., M.Ed
Bjarnadottir, Adda. “11 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Bananas.” Healthline. Healthline Media, October 18, 2018. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-benefits-of-bananas.
Singh, Balwinder, Jatinder Pal Singh, Amritpal Kaur, and Narpinder Singh. “Bioactive Compounds in Banana and Their Associated Health Benefits – A Review.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, September 1, 2016. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27041291/
“Quick Tips to Feed a Picky Eater.” WebMD. Accessed July 27, 2021. https://www.webmd.com/parenting/ss/slideshow-picky-eaters.