Is there a picky child in your life? You know, the one who survives off nothing but Goldfish and PBJs? If this sounds familiar to you, we have some tips on supporting your child in trying new foods.
First off, understand that your child isn’t trying to be difficult. Kids are neophobes, they’ve evolved to be skeptical of new foods. Children often need multiple exposures to a food (think 20+ times) before they feel comfortable trying it. Here are some strategies to help support your child in expanding their palate.
- Pair a new food with an old favorite. New foods aren’t as overwhelming when they’re served with something familiar. If you’re introducing a new fruit, pair it up with the peanut butter they love, or serve a new vegetable with a favorite dip.
- Offer plain water in between planned meals and snacks. For the neurotypical kid, hunger is a great motivator! If a child is allowed all-day access to the kitchen, or carries juice with them all day, they can fill up and have no drive to try a new item. Offer nothing but water in between meal/snack times.
- Recruit young grocery shoppers and chefs. Kids are far more likely to try a new food when they’ve been a part of the process. When at the grocery store, ask your child to choose a new fruit or vegetable to try. Have them search for a recipe and help with the preparation of the dish.
- Stay neutral. Grown-ups, this one is hard! We don’t want to reward a child with dessert, toys, or over the top praise when they try a new food. Try “I see you took a bite of ____. What did you think?” Learn from their feedback. We want our kids to stay internally motivated, and not to eat for external rewards. Likewise, we don’t want to punish our child if they don’t try a food. Let’s not create a situation where a child has to “earn” dessert or jump through food hoops to feel loved and accepted.
- Be patient. With support in place, the vast majority of kids outgrow food selectivity and become more adventurous eaters. Let Harmony Nutrition help support you and your family!
** While the information provided is primarily for neurotypical kids, we also help neurodiverse kids with expanding food preferences. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.