Make mealtimes easier
Patience and persistence builds better eating habits for your kids-
Marisa Crespo, our thoughtful writer and editor at Nutrition4 Kids, is always trying to engage readers with her energetic articles. She has her bachelor's degree in Nutrition and is interested in the psychology of eating as well as plant-based lifestyles. On her free time she enjoys creative writing, exploring parks and cities, and having a […]
Pickiness is natural as your baby and toddler get used to eating new foods. It takes an average of 15 tries for babies to get used to new flavors. It may seem like it takes much, much longer. If your child has very particular preferences, these tips can help him accept new (and old) foods.
Stay Calm, Collected, and Cool as a Cucumber
Since it takes time for a child to adjust to new foods, it is fairly common for a child to reject a food even after he or she seemed to like it. As a parent, this can be a frustrating guessing game on what your kid will like that day.
Keep mealtimes calm, relaxing, and fun so your child may be more willing to try new foods.
- Expect to see a child make a face when they try something new.
- Two-year-olds and three-year-olds go through periods when they like certain things and then others where they refuse those same foods. Be patient and provide an alternative—still a fruit or vegetable, not chips or cookies just because they'll eat them.
Be a Good Role Model
Your child is learning food preferences and behaviors from you and other family members. Share foods from your plate. He will be more likely to accept foods that he watched you eat (and enjoy) yourself.
- You might take a video of your own face as you offer it, because your baby will often take cues from the faces you are making.
- Older babies and toddlers are much more interested by what's on your plate than their own. So keep the foods you want them to eat on your plate and offer just a few pieces at a time. You can even alternate between a new food and something they usually love, changing very few bites.
Let Your Child Have a Part in Food Preparation
Make an effort to include your child in age appropriate food preparation tasks. Children who get a hands on experience with food will feel more connected and willing to try new things.
Kid Friendly Food Tasks:
- Washing fruits and veggies
- Counting out cherry tomatoes and baby carrots for snacks or salads
- Stirring dry ingredients in a bowl
- Pouring out ingredients into a measuring cup
- Finding ingredients in the refrigerator or pantry
Change the Texture and Temperature
The way a food is prepared can make a big difference in the texture and taste. If boiled brussels sprouts don't win over your child's the taste buds, try roasted brussels sprouts or separate the leaves or add oregano for a different taste. If your child doesn't care for a food raw, offer it cooked, roasted, or air fried.
The temperature it is served can also impact the flavor as well. You may find your child prefers cherry tomatoes room temperature rather than refrigerated. Or maybe they like cold bean salads, but not hot ones in stews.
Lastly, the way foods are cut and served can make a difference in acceptance. Cutting foods thicker or thinner, lengthwise or diced, etc. can change the mouthfeel of the foods, which can affect whether your child likes it or not.
Read Green Eggs and Ham
Dr. Seuss knew what he was writing about. He described this whole frustrating process well. Read the book with your son or daughter–and see if he or she gets the message. You might also find something there that's meaningful about patience and persistence (after all, it's sometimes recommended by business schools).
When All Else Fails, Substitute
If you have given your child multiple exposures of a food and tried some of our tips and they still don't like the food, don't fret. Most foods have sister foods that your kid may prefer more. If your child doesn't like carrots, other orange foods (like butternut squash or pumpkin) have similar nutrients. Many whole grains can be switched for each other (quinoa, barely, brown rice); also true for leafy greens.
- If it's a matter of texture or a wider range of foods, talk to your child's doctor about a vitamin and possibly someone to evaluate for feeding problems.
It is natural for kids to take awhile to get used to eating certain foods. While your children transition to new foods:
- Have patience and persistence
- Be a good role model
- Include them in food preparation
- Serve foods at different textures and temperatures
- Substitute for other foods in the same food family
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