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Jessie’s mom had just been to the grocery store where she’d picked out a fresh cantaloupe. It wasn’t something they normally served at home, but she knew it was good for her kids – especially Jessie – who was so selective!
At breakfast, Jessie’s mom topped their yogurt with granola, like she usually does, but she also added some cubed cantaloupe. Jessie was horrified!
“What IS this?” Jessie asked. They picked it up and immediately dropped it back down into the bowl. “It’s really slippery. I don’t like it, whatever it is!” they said.
“It’s just cantaloupe, Jessie, it isn’t from outer space. You haven’t even tried it, how can you not like it?!” their mom exclaimed, frustrated.
“I don’t eat slimy food!” Jessie said. They were so bugged out by the slippery feel of the cantaloupe, they couldn’t even pick it out of the yogurt to enjoy the parts of breakfast they did like. Instead, they went to school with an empty stomach and were distracted by hunger until lunch time!
Feeding kids is so hard, and that’s especially true of picky eaters. We are here to help you teach your child to eat cantaloupe! In this article, you will find out:
- The benefits of cantaloupe for kids
- How to serve cantaloupe to picky eaters
- How to talk about cantaloupe to help your child try it
- How to help your child understand what cantaloupe does in their body
- A food activity that will help your picky eater learn to be more comfortable with cantaloupe
The Benefits of Cantaloupe for Kids
Cantaloupe offers many benefits for children. Cantaloupe has something special called beta-carotene. Inside the body, beta-carotene gets converted into vitamin A. Vitamin A is vital for kids to support the health of their body tissues, growing bones and eyes (think night vision)!
In addition, cantaloupe is high in vitamin C. Vitamin C is necessary for kids as it assists their immune system in protecting their bodies from disease. It is also essential for keeping their gums strong.
Considering cantaloupe is such a vitamin-rich food, I don’t think anyone can blame Jessie’s mom for wanting their child to try the melon.
How to Serve Cantaloupe to Picky Eaters
Orange fruits like cantaloupe add a beautiful pop of color to our plate. They can be served raw in fruit salads, smoothies, in a yogurt bowl or in a salsa to add sweetness. Cantaloupe can also be pureed and made into chilled soup, put atop ice cream, or frozen in a popsicle mold for a warm weather treat. You can also consider grilling it on a meat kebab alongside your favorite roasting veggies.
No matter which way you decide to serve cantaloupe, if it is a new food for your picky eater, we suggest only putting a micro portion on their plate. A micro portion is a tiny, sample-size portion of the food. A tiny portion is a lot less intimidating for picky children, and this increases the odds that they will accept it.
It’s very possible that if Jessie’s mom served a small piece of cantaloupe alongside the yogurt, Jessie would have felt differently about trying it.
Generally, we do not support pressuring any children to eat a food they aren’t ready to try yet. When we say pressure, we mean saying things to your picky eater that are intended to convince them to eat. While you may think you are seeing progress in the short term, the long-term effects of pressure at mealtime far outweigh those few extra bites you got during a meal last week. Believe it or not, this could potentially ruin the chance of your fussy eater ever liking the foods! You may have heard some versions of pressure that sound like this:
- “One more bite and I’ll let you stay up late!”
- “Your friend eats cantaloupe, don’t you want to be like them?”
- “You have to sit and finish all your cantaloupe before you can go to soccer practice.”
When Jessie’s mom asked them how they could dislike a food they haven’t even tried yet, she didn’t realize it but that was actually putting pressure on them to eat it. That made Jessie less likely to try it and instead chose to go hungry for a few hours. Their mom meant well, but needed some more supportive tools to help her get her child to eat cantaloupe.
How to Talk About Cantaloupe to Help Your Child Try It
We’ve all been there. We just made a balanced meal for our kids. They sit down to eat it and of course your pickiest eater has something to say about it. “This cantaloupe is so slimy!” This is negative language, and it is common for picky eaters to be drawn towards it when describing foods. Sometimes we see this as defiant, but in reality, they just don’t have other words to use!
We can help them discover neutral words to describe foods by modeling using them. When we teach our children to use neutral words for food by doing it ourselves, they may catch on and start copying us. Once the new terms become part of their word bank, it will open their minds to accepting the new foods in the future.
Why neutral words instead of positive ones? When we over-glamorize a food by mentioning how great it is, skeptical eaters may become more reluctant. They may think you are trying to trick them into eating it and will say anything to make that happen! Neutral words, on the other hand, allow us to describe foods objectively.
This is just one strategy that can be used in tandem with the other methods we mentioned to help you find success with your picky eaters at mealtime.
Some words you can use to describe cantaloupe to your fussy eater are listed below:
- Sweet smell
- Sweet taste
- Wet inside
- Bumpy outside
- Hard outside
If Jessie’s mom had known the benefits that speaking neutrally about foods offers children, she may have instead said, “Cantaloupe is orange and wet. It smells sweet and has a sweet taste too.”
How to Help Your Child Understand What Cantaloupe Does in Their Body
The way that we discuss foods with our kids can make a big difference in their picky eating. If you have ever tried to convince your selective eater to try something they weren’t ready for yet, you know that it just doesn’t work. Picky eaters need some more information about a food before they can really think about tasting it.
To help your picky eater, learn about the foods you want your child to eat. You may find out some really cool facts about foods you didn’t know before! Then, you can share them in an age-appropriate way with your child.
We have provided some messages about cantaloupe below that you can try with your picky eater.
Age 0-3: Orange foods help you see in the dark!
Age 3-5: Orange foods have vitamin A, which helps you see in the dark!
Age 6-11: Cantaloupe has vitamin A. Vitamin A foods are orange and they help keep our eyes working properly!
Age 12-18: Cantaloupe has vitamin A, which is an important nutrient for our bodies because it helps keep our eyes, lungs, heart and kidneys working properly.
If Jessie had more information about cantaloupe, maybe they would be more inclined to try it. Their mom could have said, “Cantaloupe has vitamin A, which helps our eyes see in the dark!”
Cantaloupe Food Play Activity
Food play activities are a great way for kids to play while learning how to interact with new foods. It is so helpful for picky eaters! When they see, touch, smell, and, eventually, taste a new food, they learn that they can accept it and maybe even like it in the future!
Your child won’t realize it, but when they’re having fun with a food activity, they are simultaneously desensitizing their body’s sensory system to the unfamiliar food. When their brain experiences a new sense, it could automatically perceive it as danger, and that sometimes triggers the fight or flight system. Through food play we can avoid these big reactions by helping our picky eaters to familiarize themselves with new foods in a way that feels natural to them.
Food activities can be as simple as bringing your little one through the grocery store isles and talking about the foods you see. It can also be more advanced, like creating a science project with the food, if you have the time to put into it.
Activities alone may not yield the change you wish to see in your child’s eating habits. This is a piece of the puzzle as you work on creating a welcoming environment for your picky eater to thrive. Before they are ready to taste new foods, children may need to be introduced to the food in stages of seeing, hearing, smelling and touching. Work your way through these stages at your child’s pace!
You’re a busy parent! You may not have the energy to come up with food activities. Luckily, we’ve done that for you in our ebook Food Play Every Day: 102+ Food Play Activities for Kids.
- ¼ cantaloupe
- Knife (for prep)
- Spoon (for prep)
- Toothpicks, optional
- Cut your cantaloupe in half once. Take one half and scoop out the inside with the spoon, then cut in half again to make quarters. You will need 1 quarter with the inside scooped out for this game. You can prep the rest of the cantaloupe now to serve throughout the week, or you can wrap it up and refrigerate for later.
- Cut the cantaloupe into evenly-sized cubes.
- Stack a few on top of each other and present it on a plate to your child.
- You can play with these just like blocks or add elements to make it more interesting like toothpicks to build structures using the cantaloupe blocks as fasteners.
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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.
Johane Filemon, MS, RDN, CLT
Alli Delozier, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Laura Petix, M.S., OTR/L
Erinn Jacobi, M.S., OTR/L
Stefanie Kain, B.S., M.Ed
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