A mother holding her child who is eating a slice of cucumber


5 Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat New Foods

Jun 5, 2017

Imagine being served an exotic food — perhaps a cooked insect — and being expected to eat it happily on the first try.

Toddlers and young kids are faced with unfamiliar foods often, which can be intimidating and even scary, especially for less-adventurous eaters. Kids need to see, touch, play with and watch their parents eat foods over and over again before learning to accept it, which requires a lot of patience.

Keeping mealtimes positive and pressure-free is key. Here are a few strategies to boost your child’s confidence when trying new foods:

Let them choose

By letting your kids make their own age-appropriate choices, they feel more powerful and confident. Allow your children to choose foods at the grocery store (with a bit of guidance), or get them to choose between two to three recipes when planning a meal. This will give them a say, which will increase the chances of them actually eating it!

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Acknowledge your children's bravery, instead of praising them for eating

Parents often praise their kids for trying new foods or eating certain amounts. Although well-intentioned, over-praising at meals sends the wrong message. We want our kids to eat intuitively and to learn to love a variety of foods in their own time. Instead, notice and acknowledge your child’s bravery when trying something new. Say something like, “That was brave of you for tasting your broccoli tonight.” It will boost their confidence and increase the likelihood of your child being more adventurous with other foods too!

Be careful not to label your children

Try not to refer to your children as “picky eaters." This can easily enable the behaviour and decrease children's self-confidence when it comes to eating. Instead, make them feel confident in their eating abilities, and gently encourage them to explore different foods at their own pace. Remind them that even though they might not like a particular food today, they might like it the next time or even a few weeks from now.

Be an adventurous eater yourself

Make a point of trying something new now and then at a family meal. When your children see this, as well as your positive reaction, they will feel more open and relaxed about trying new foods themselves. Make it fun by letting them choose one new, different food every time you go to the grocery store — maybe a new fruit, vegetable or type of meat — and letting them have say in how you use it in a meal.

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Drop the “one bite” rule

Although the "one bite" rule might work with more adventurous or compliant kids, it can increase fear and anxiety of new foods in apprehensive eaters or kids with texture aversions. Instead, take the pressure off. When parents do this, kids often become more open to exploring and sampling new foods on their own.

If your children do show interest or curiosity in a new food, feel free to gently encourage them to explore it or sample a small bite. Be prepared to accept “no, thank you” as an answer and reply by saying, “That’s okay! Maybe next time you’ll feel ready to try it.”

Learning to like a new food takes time, patience and repeated exposure. Discover and explore new foods in a fun way with your kids, and make mealtimes as positive and pressure-free as possible, keeping the focus on family time.

Article Author Sarah Remmer
Sarah Remmer

Read and watch more from Sarah here.

Sarah Remmer, RD, is a pediatric registered dietitian and owner of Sarah Remmer Nutrition Consulting, a nutrition consulting and communications company based in Calgary, Alberta. Her website and blog contain practical tips and advice for parents and families on feeding and nutrition (everything from pre-natal nutrition to teens), as well as nutritious and easy recipes and videos. Follow Sarah on Facebook for free advice, tips and family-friendly recipes!

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