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Picky Eaters: Tips for Getting Kids to Try New Foods

Picky Eaters: Tips for Getting Kids to Try New Foods

I read an article on The Huffington Post by Lyz Lenz, a mom who employs an “Eat or Don’t Eat” dinnertime strategy with her 2-year-old. One meal is served for dinner. If her daughter doesn’t eat it, she doesn’t eat. No substitutes, no “kids” meal. Seemed like a fairly reasonable way to control mealtime to me. We have our own variation which allows for yogurt and/or fruit at any meal, but we don’t cook substitutes and don’t offer a “kids” meal that is any different from the “adult” meal. I didn’t think Lenz’s post was terribly earth-shattering. Then I read the comments. Apparently a lot of people think this approach could only be the scheme of a heartless, cold and borderline abusive parent. I was shocked. There seemed to be a bright line between the “cater to your child’s every whim, even at mealtime” crew and the “eat goulash or starve” crew. I thought I might be able to help find some middle ground by sharing my strategies for getting my kids to eat new foods. These are not endorsed by any medical professional or nutrition expert. These are just a few things I’ve tried. Most have worked. Sometimes.

Toddler girl eating a sandwich

Tips for Getting Picky Eaters to Try New Foods

1. Start young and be honest. At this age, a child has no built-in notion that he should prefer donut holes to sauteed mushrooms. So serve up the veggies with enthusiasm and don’t try to pretend it’s something else. This will pay dividends when they’re older and know that they actually like what’s being served.

2. Model it, even if you have to fake it. Show your child how good you think the eggplant is, even if you can’t stand it. If you eschew certain things, you give kids license to do the same. Act surprised when your child tastes the eggplant and still doesn’t like it. I’ve even gotten my husband to eat lots of things he hates using this approach.

3. Think about it from their point of view. One day when my daughter was two, I picked her up from school with the best news. “Guess what we’re having for dinner?” I exclaimed. “Pink fish!” She was thrilled. And thus her love affair with salmon was born.

4. Let them eat ketchup. If dipping it in ketchup gets them to eat it, why not let the ketchup flow? My kids aren’t even huge ketchup eaters, but they sometimes use it on anything from seafood to steak to veggies. While I can’t personally endorse the seafood and ketchup pairing, I can say that ketchup goes surprisingly well with broccoli and cauliflower. And cold chicken with a little salt and ketchup is downright comfort food in my house.

5. Try it fried. It may not be the healthiest cooking method, but what doesn’t taste better fried? My daughter was first willing to try scallops and clams when they were served fried, and now she knows she likes scallops and clams and will eat them in all sort of preparations. The same could work on zucchini, sweet potatoes, fish, and all sorts of other foods.

You can try to disguise veggies in the form or muffins and pancakes and cookies, but isn’t the point to get them to enjoy (or at least be willing to eat) foods that are good for them? I’m not saying this is a new strategy on the toddler mealtime battlefield. These are just a few tips that have worked for me. Sometimes.

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One comment

  1. Sarah August 20, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    I agree with you. I am too busy to be a “running a restaurant.” My Mom cautioned me to feed J what we eat. I’ve also made a game out of trying different veggies with different dipping sauces. Everyone at the table has to cast their vote for preferences. Also, his tastes do change over time so I just keep offering up things and know that eventually he’ll try them.

    Your “Pink Fish” idea is great and I am going to try that one.

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