Is a shaking head or a wail the typical response when you offer up something new at dinnertime? It’s not your fault. Many children are picky eaters at some point in their lives.
But that doesn’t mean you should give up on broadening their culinary horizons or introducing healthy fare at mealtimes. As your little one starts to explore new foods, you can cultivate a willingness to try new things — especially nutritious things. Here are some parent-tested strategies for getting your little one to try (and maybe even like) different types of foods. You never know — you just might end up with a foodie on your hands!
If you have any questions about your child's diet or general health, be sure to ask your pediatrician.
Step 1: Explore the Senses
Here’s a great game budding gourmets will love: Cover your child's eyes with your hands or a blindfold. Have her touch a whole apple and a tomato to see if she can guess which is which. Next, cut a small piece of the apple and the tomato, let her sniff each one, and ask her to guess again. Finally, have her pinch her nose shut and take a tiny bite of each food. Then reveal what she just tried. She may be surprised to realize how smells affects taste.
Now, with your child's eyes uncovered, break a carrot and ask your child to describe the sound this makes. Do the same with a pickle and a hot dog and compare. Which one snaps? Which one pops? The end of this experiment? Lunch!
Step 2: Do Some Menu Makeovers
If your child won't venture far from familiar foods, you can make some small changes that will be delicious as well as healthful. Does your little one love pasta? Try serving it with a sauce made of fresh grated veggies instead of a creamy cheese or meat sauce. The ever-popular pizza can get a nutritional boost by topping it with chopped up broccoli, sweet peppers, pineapple — the more color and crunch, the better.
Step 3: Ignore First Impressions and Keep Trying
You may have always hated celery, but it is possible that your child’s tastes can change over time. So don't give up when you see a wrinkled nose or hear a "no." You may need to offer a food as many as 10 times before it's a go.
Step 4: Practice What You Preach
Babies and young children like to imitate their parents, so the next time you get a food refusal, try giving yourself a little bit of whatever's being offered. Showing that you “love” the food might inspire your little one to take a bite or try something new.
Step 5: Spice Up Your Life
A lot of healthful food is just plain bland and boring. Why not try adding a little seasoning? Young children don't need salt added to their food, but a little garlic or another tasty herb or spice is a good option. Be sure to taste the seasoned food first, before offering it to your child. Sooner or later, you may have the pleasure of seeing him gobble up something that was initially rejected.
With these tactics in place, in time your child will expand his repertoire and start eating a more balanced diet. In the meantime, try to relax and have fun at mealtimes!