Eating a variety of healthy foods is the best way for your child to get needed nutrients. But how do you encourage kids-notorious for being picky eaters-to explore the wide world of food? According to the health and parenting experts at KidsHealth, the answer is pleasant persistence.
It turns out that once is not enough when it comes to kids and trying new foods. It may take up to 15 tries before children warm up to new tastes, research shows. So if your child turns up his nose at green beans or broccoli, don’t assume he will never like those good-for-you green veggies.
Consider starting a new rule at your family table: Everyone takes at least a bite of what’s being served, even if they tried it before and didn’t like it. This exposes kids to new tastes again and again, increasing the odds that they’ll eventually accept some of them. It also makes trying new foods just part of the normal routine. The KidsHealth experts offer these tips for implementing this one-bite strategy:
• Put a small portion of the new food on your child’s plate. Or, if your child’s old enough, allow her to self-serve.
• When serving a new food, be sure to also include a familiar food on that night’s menu. Too much new stuff can be off-putting, especially to a hungry child.
• Keep the mood light and upbeat. Don’t make the one bite seem like a punishment.
• Talk about the new food you’re serving, where it comes from, other recipes it’s in, or even how to spell the food. (For instance, you might tell a toddler that zucchini starts with “Z.”)
• Be a sport by following the one-bite rule yourself.
Visiting restaurants, farmers’ markets and specialty markets can also expose kids to different foods. Use those outings to let your child choose a new food to try. Reading books about food and paging through cookbooks is another way to encourage experimentation. If a recipe looks good to your child, consider making it together. That new dish could become a favorite. But for now, start with just one bite.