5 Ways to Help Picky Eaters Learn to Love New Foods
Today’s post is courtesy of Aviva Goldfarb, founder and former CEO of The Scramble. The company is now led by CEO Jessica Braider.
Families are made up of members of varying sizes and tastes. At The Scramble, I would often get cries for help for getting young (or maybe not-so-young) picky eaters to eat a broader and healthier variety of food. Below I’ll share a few of my favorite strategies for getting picky eaters to learn to love new foods.
5 Ways to Get Picky Eaters to Try New Foods
1. Don’t pay too much attention to your child’s quirky appetite. Sometimes harping on a child’s pickiness reinforces it. We met a 4-year-old who would only eat brown food. How did we know that? Three adults told us so right in front of him. I think this boy enjoyed his role as the incurable picky eater too much to relinquish it. Instead, lavish your child with praise when he or she tries a new food. So when it comes to feeding your kids, don’t give up on new foods based on past experiences, and don’t give your kids too much negative attention for refusing to try something.
2. Improvise and disguise. If your son didn’t like carrot sticks last week, wait a few weeks and give him sliced or baby carrots next time. Try a different shape, a different dip, even a different side of the plate! (Or if all else fails, cut the carrots into microscopic bits and sneak them into the sauce.)
3. Tell veggie tales. Fill kids in on why it’s good to eat different foods. Though they’ve probably never seen him, our kids still love to hear about Popeye’s bulging muscles after eating spinach. Tell your kids stories about the first time you tried a food and why you liked it, or other memories of enjoying foods from when you were little.
4. Enlist their help. Include your child in meal preparation and choices, such as deciding what shape pasta to use, or opening cans for the sauce. This kind of investment in the meal often makes kids more likely to try something new.
5. Try and try again. Pediatricians and dietitians estimate that it may take 10-15 exposures (which involves an actual bite taken – looks and smells don’t count!) to new foods before kids begin to like them. That means that even if your child said she hated beans last week, she still needs to taste them next week, and perhaps many more times before she begins to tolerate them, let alone like them.
Dinner should be a time for positive interchanges, rather than nagging and criticism. But we parents need to keep offering healthy foods that have been rejected before, encouraging our kids to try them, and giving them lots of great feedback for being adventurous. Over time their palates will broaden, their food choices will expand – who knows, they might even ask for more green specks in their soup!
Editor’s Note: Get healthy! Bright Horizons and The Partnership for a Healthier America recently hosted a parent webinar: Seize the Summer – Fitness Tips for Busy Families to share actionable tips for prioritizing fitness and improving your family’s eating habits. Watch now!
Aviva Goldfarb is a Family Dinner Expert and founder and former CEO of the family dinner planning site, the The Scramble. Aviva is author of 3 cookbooks including her most recent, “SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Meals for Busy Families,” which was named one of the best cookbooks of 2010 by the Washington Post. Aviva is a recent and upcoming Today Show guest and is frequently featured in national parenting, lifestyle and health magazines and TV and radio shows.
- Parent Webinar: Food for Thought – Nutrition Tips & Strategies for Growing a Healthy Eater
- Bright Horizons Online Community: Snack Ideas for a Picky Eater
- Bright Horizons Online Community: To Cater to Picky Eaters…or Not?
- Read more posts about child nutrition and posts about picky eaters from the Family Room bloggers