Feeding young children can often feel like a battle. Especially on those days when you make a new dish, or cook a vegetable in a different way.
Here are 7 ideas for helping your children to try new foods:
1. Offer a Wide Variety
From the time your child starts eating, you should be offering a wide variety of shapes, colors and textures. This will help your child’s natural palate develop and will give you many options for when your toddler begins to feel empowered to make food choices of their own and begin to resist certain foods. This is a phase that toddlers go through and I encourage you to keep offering a wide variety as they work through this phase. My 15 month old will eat spicy beans, sweet mango chunks, as well as spaghetti and meatballs. I’ll be ready with other options when he starts to make these choices for himself and appears to be moving into the ‘picky’ phase, when in reality he is just learning to make his own food choices. It’s my job as his mother to continue to offer him a wide variety of options to chose from at meal time. I implore you to do that same!
2. Slow Down on the Snacks
Set a limit on the afternoon snack and don’t allow children to eat at least 1 hour before the time you plan to serve dinner. This can be difficult, especially once you get into the kitchen and the smell of dinner takes over the house and makes the hunger pangs increase. Hold tight to this ‘no snacks an hour before dinner’ guideline, as you want to make sure your children are good and hungry when the arrive at the table.
3. Involve Them in the Meal Planning Process
Ask them what they want to eat for dinner and work together to come up with a meal plan that works for you, and includes a number of foods that your child does like.
4. Teach Them How to Cook the New Foods
In addition to including children in the planning process, teach them how to cook their new foods. Talk them through the cooking process, show them when and how to season the meat, or how to saute some veggies to go with your dinner. Related, don’t try cooking with your kids when you’re highly stressed or had a bad day. Everyone will end up frustrated and your efforts will be in vain.
5. The One Bite Rule
At our dinner table, we have a ‘one bite rule’ in which everyone at the table has to try at least one bite of the new side dish or meat. For years, I’ve been serving all kinds of different foods to my boys (the joy of being a food blogger), and have learned that they often balk at how the food ‘looks’ without even giving it a chance to tantalize their taste buds. And because of this one bite rule, my oldest (and pickiest) son turns out to be a huge fan of zucchini. Huh.
6. Switch it up or Repurpose a Favorite
If you’re trying to get your kiddo to eat tomato soup, make their favorite grilled cheese sandwich and then cut it up into ‘croutons’ that you float into the soup. They’ll scoop them out of the soup, have a little taste of the soup and chances are they’ll enjoy the combination. Change up the flavorings on their favorite baked chicken, then cut the chicken into fun shapes and they might not notice the new flavor…or better yet, they might actually enjoy the new dish. If you don’t think that new shapes will work, try a new dipping sauce with the new chicken. Kids love to dip!
7. Keep offering, keep offering, keep offering
…and don’t just fall back on chicken nuggets – please, whatever you do keep offering a wide variety of colors and flavors. Please do not resort to chicken and french fries. Please. I beg of you.
Also, please note that if your child shows extreme eating behaviors, please speak with your physician about your options and getting help to make sure their nutritional needs are being met.
What tips do you have for helping your child try new foods?