When is the last time you tried a new food? How about a new recipe? Sometimes we all struggle with eating or purchasing the same foods. This is especially true with young children as it is important to offer new foods to expand their food choices at an early age. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. So, how do we go about offering new foods? Here are some tips to try, but remember just because it doesn’t work the first time, don’t give up. Sometimes foods need to be offered 15-20 times before children may decide they like them.
- Remember, one step at a time, offer just one new food at a time and in small amounts. Allow them to take a bite and then they can say “no-thank you” for the rest. This will help promote good manners as well.
- Serve new foods with familiar ones so they will still have food to eat and you don’t become a “short order” cook. Establish the expectation that this is what we have to eat, if you choose not to eat this, the next meal or snack will be at (you give the time). When they understand what the routine is they will learn to choose foods to satisfy their hunger.
- Serve fruits and veggies as finger foods and maybe with a dip or sauce of some kind. Little ones usually enjoy using food as a dipper which also promotes hand eye coordination as well!
- Let your child pick foods at the store. If they go with you and can choose the apples or the grapes, then they may be more likely to eat them. They can also help wash them and put them in the refrigerator.
- Allowing children to help in the kitchen with making recipes or just observing is a great way to get them to try new foods. Then they help mix, measure or toss items together they see the “science” of cooking and may enjoy trying new bites.
- Be a good role model for your children by eating with them. Try new foods yourself and help talk with them about the flavors and textures that you taste and feel.
- Have a meal of a special color---today is green day so what foods can you think of that are green that we can prepare? Some colors are easier than others, but I’m sure you can be creative.
- Limit distractions during mealtime. Turn off the TV, computer and cell phones and enjoy family time together. Try not to be in a hurry. Talk about the day’s events and the plans for the evening or maybe what happened at school if there are older children. There is great value in eating meals together.
- Remember to offer all the food groups every day: Fruits, Vegetables, Whole grains, low fat Protein and Dairy give a well-rounded supply of vitamins and minerals that we need every day.
- If your child doesn’t like it the first time, that’s ok—just don’t give up. Maybe they don’t like cooked vegetables; try them raw or even frozen. Never force a child to try a new food - we can encourage a bite, but when we force then it becomes a power struggle.
Just remember that most of the time when children have selective eating issues, it’s generally for a short amount of time. Practicing some of the ideas listed will continually encourage them to expand their preferences and enjoy foods for life.