How to Encourage Fussy Eaters to Try New Foods
Posted by Mandy Sacher on May 18, 2015
Posted by Mandy Sacher on May 18, 2015
Mealtimes should be fun-filled family affairs, but all too often they become more like a battleground than a picture of domestic bliss, with kids of all ages rejecting foods, throwing veggies and causing their parents all manners of stress. Getting a fussy eater to try new foods can be a challenging process, so keep in mind that the end goal is to instill in your child a sense of enjoyment for eating, which can take time and requires patience and commitment from the whole family.
Here are Wholesome Child’s top tips on how to encourage fussy eaters to try new foods:
- Desensitization – encourage your little ones to touch, smell and engage with their food. This starts in the grocery store – can they push the little trolleys available at some stores around the aisles, can they help take items off the shelves? Encourage them to pick up a carrot, an apple or a zucchini etc. from the shelf and place it in the basket or trolley themselves – this begins the engagement with the new food. Can they put the dish or new veggie onto the table for the family? Don’t be disappointed if they don’t eat the new food the first time it’s offered – stay positive and freeze what is not eaten and offer it again – repetition is key here.
- Try, try and try again – it can take up to 16 times for a child to “like” or accept a new taste, so stay positive, stay calm and keep trying. The first time your child may not even want to look at the new food, next time they will sight it but not taste it, the third time they may touch but not taste and so on. Making foods familiar by repeatedly offering them in a calm, familial environment will aid the process of engaging with new tastes and flavours. You can also try offering them the same foods in different ways – cut into fun shapes, laid out in colour patterns, steamed rather than raw etc.
- Fun and games – bring some fun and games to your dinner (or breakfast, or lunch) table – create stories with your food, reward positive behaviours and try to limit reaction to negative ones. As hard as it is as a concerned parent, try to focus not on what your child is eating but how they are feeling at the dinner table and help create a positive atmosphere around mealtimes. Simon Says is a great game to play with younger children – “put a bean on your nose”; ‘throw a pea in mummy’s mouth” – these are excellent techniques to help kids touch foods they ordinarily struggle with.
- No pressure – hard though as it is, force feeding and pressurising children to eat only creates stress and negativity around “difficult” foods. Try to create a sense of trust around the table, and engage them through play – detective games about colours, shapes, tastes will ease tension and allow some giggles and joy to return to mealtimes. In younger babies encourage self-feeding rather than forceful spoon feeding and talk to them about the colours, tastes, what animals eat these veggies, where do they grow etc.
- Cooking with your children – just as we all try and cram after school activities such as swimming, soccer and ballet into the after school routine, with fussy eaters, make cooking a regular after school pastime. Inviting a friend round (that is perhaps more adventurous than your own) and having a cook-up of a new dish which you’ll eat together for dinner is a great way to introduce new tastes – often kids are more willing to try new things with their peers.
If you would like more practical advice, veggie-filled recipes designed for fussy eaters and information on how to prevent fussy eating in children, then you may be interested in our Fussy Eating online course. Remember, some fussy eaters are actually problem eaters and may require professional intervention to help both child and parents.