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Timmy and his papa are best buds. They love hanging out together and playing airplane games. They are like two peas in a pod, except at snack and mealtimes. When they started solids, Papa could always get Timmy to eat, but within the last year, meals and snacks were no longer going smoothly.
Timmy recently stopped liking jackfruit. Papa tried to sound excited as he served the jackfruit, saying, “Okay, Bud, we’re eating jackfruit! It’s so tasty. I put barbecue sauce on it too–your favorite!”
Timmy did like barbecue sauce, so he poked his finger in it to taste. Recognizing the flavor he took a bite. His face turned quickly from suspicious to upset. Spitting out the food Timmy shouted, “Squishy! No, Papa, no!”
Papa tried one more time. “I know you don’t like it, Buddy, but if you take one bite like a big boy, we can have extra plane time!” Timmy was not convinced and began to fidget and get out of his high chair.
Navigating food battles with selective eaters is complicated. Overcoming picky eating is a long-term process, and we’re here to help you through it! Here’s our guide to help you teach kids to eat jackfruit. You’ll learn:
- The benefits of jackfruit for kids
- How to serve jackfruit to picky eaters
- How to talk about jackfruit to help your child try it
- How to help your child understand what jackfruit does in their body
- A food activity that will help your picky eater learn to be more comfortable with jackfruit
The Benefits of Jackfruit for Kids
Jackfruit is the largest tree fruit in the world. It can be yellow or green, and the flesh and seeds can be eaten raw or cooked.
Jackfruit is full of nutrients for kids. It has more protein than most other fruits. Protein is important for kids’ overall growth and development. Jackfruit has a high amount of vitamin C, which helps with healing cuts and preventing cell damage. It also contains fiber, which can help reduce constipation so kids have smooth bowel movements.
How to Serve Jackfruit to Picky Eaters
Jackfruit is very versatile. It can be served cooked and uncooked. When jackfruit is less ripe, it works great in a savory dish. When ripe, it can be used in a dessert. The “meat” of the jackfruit is often used as a meat alternative in vegetarian and vegan meals. It can be found in most grocery stores canned and some in raw form. The jackfruit seeds can also be eaten.
You can serve jackfruit in tacos, curries, or even a barbeque-like sandwich. Serving food that is so adaptable is great because it gives you many options for exposing it to kids and letting them experience the food in different ways.
When serving jackfruit, we suggest providing a micro portion. This is a small taste of the new food you want your child to try. Micro portions are great because a picky eater won’t feel overwhelmed by the amount of a normal portion. It can also help cut down on food waste. Micro portions are also a great, no-pressure way to allow your child to decide if they want more.
Removing pressure from mealtimes can also encourage a fussy eater to try a new food like jackfruit. Often, pushing a picky eater to try new foods will most likely cause them to push back. Some kids may even get up and leave the table, like in Timmy’s story.
Pressuring kids can also look like this:
“You’re a big boy, and big boys try at least one bite.”
“If you taste the jackfruit, we can have more time to play before bed.”
Pressure can also be not providing them with any foods they do like along with the new food.
Taking pressure off picky eaters makes a huge difference in their behavior. When they are served micro portions without the pressure to try the new food, they have the choice to decide if they want to try it and possibly enjoy it long-term.
Next time, Papa can offer Timmy a micro portion of jackfruit, and Timmy can decide if he would like to taste it. Timmy, like most kids in his situation, probably won’t try the fruit right away, but these strategies are helpful for getting kids to eat jackfruit and reversing picky eating in general.
How to Talk about Jackfruit to Help Your Child Try It
If you have a selective eater at home, you may have noticed some negative talk when it comes to certain foods. Maybe your child says, “ewww,” “yucky,” or “I don’t like it!” This negative talk is actually common among picky eaters and can reinforce selective behavior.
One strategy you can use to correct this picky eating behavior is to model talking about food in a neutral way to your kids. Children pick up behavior and language from parents, so being mindful about the way we describe food will be key.
The reason we recommend the use of neutral words is so that we teach kids to like new food without any judgements or opinions on the food. For example, if we tell kids a food is “healthy,” they may decide not to try the food because they have connected “healthy foods” to a bad taste or smell. But when we use a neutral word or phrase, they receive information about the food and have a chance to decide themselves if they want to try the food. This won’t fix picky eating overnight but is part of a long-term strategy.
Here are some words you can use to model how to talk about jackfruit.
- Slightly sweet
At breakfast tomorrow, Timmy’s dad can say, “Look, Timmy! Papa bought a fruit that is spikey and sweet! Can you show me where the spikes are?”
How to Help Your Child Understand What Jackfruit Does in Their Body
We don’t just talk about what foods are like, we also tell our kids why a food is important for them to eat. We may say a food is “healthy” as a way to get kids to try a food, but it usually doesn’t convince them. That’s because your child may have connected “healthy food” to a bad taste or something else they don’t like.
You can teach a fussy eater why jackfruit is beneficial to them by helping them understand what it does in their body. Talking about what food does in their bodies gives children the chance to learn and make positive connections with new food in a low-pressure environment.
Here is some information you can share with your child about jackfruit:
Age 0-3: Jackfruit is a large, yellow fruit that lets us play longer!
Age 3-5: Jackfruit is a fruit that gives us energy so our bodies can grow.
Age 6-11: Jackfruit is a special fruit because it has a high amount of a nutrient called protein, which helps us grow.
Age 12-18: We need protein for many body functions and to have energy to grow, which includes building muscles like our brain and heart. We can get protein from meat and also fruit like jackfruit.
Jackfruit Food Activity
To help fussy kids try and like a new food, they may need to look, touch, smell, as well as taste a new food many times. Food play allows picky kids to interact with food and helps to desensitize them. New foods can be scary to some kids and can trigger a flight, fight, or freeze response. When a kid is desensitized to a new food, they feel more familiar and less scared or nervous around it. Then they can start interacting with the food rather than feeling like the food is icky, squishy or gross.
Using food play is a great strategy but the process is not always linear. Your child may be interested in smelling a food today, touching it tomorrow, then refuse to look at it for a month. Continuing to expose them to the food is important and food play can help with this.
Here is a food activity you can do to help get your picky eater to eat jackfruit. You and your child are going to find and study jackfruit as if you are a scientist conducting research. Be sure to mention that this food activity is for having fun and learning. If your child is feeling apprehensive, reassure your child that there is no pressure for them to play if they do not want to. You can also build upon this activity (continue reading for details).
Find and Study the Jackfruit
- Canned or whole jackfruit
- Placemat or plate
- Crayons or coloring utensils and paper, optional
- Drain canned jackfruit or rinse and cut fresh jackfruit. Place jackfruit on a placemat or plate.
- Pretend you are a scientist doing research and write your findings on paper. How does it feel? What does it smell and look like? Describe the flavor and texture. (Bonus: Take your child with you to the store to buy the jackfruit, so you can touch, look and describe it there.)
- Let your child decide how far they would like to go with this activity based on their comfort level. You can also adjust this activity for younger children by having them find and sort other yellow foods or other tropical fruits to compare and contrast.
Note: Alternate locations for finding fresh jackfruit may include botanical gardens or arboretums with tropical plants and/or a greenhouse.
For variations and more ideas, get Food Play Every Day: 102+ Food Activities for Kids!
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
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