By Alison Cupp Relyea
In the first year or two, our pediatricians instruct us through the transition to solid foods, and introducing new foods is rather straightforward. Many parents delight in their children’s reactions to new textures and flavors, and come to an early conclusion that their child is an adventurous, or at least curious, eater.
Suddenly, the toddler years arrive and many children use food as a way to exert control. They suddenly refuse foods that they liked the previous week, and insist that food look a certain way or they will not try it. This is a child’s way of figuring out the world and developing preferences, but it can be incredibly annoying, particularly for parents who believed their child was open-minded and when it came to food and took pride in these healthy habits.
To introduce new foods to a picky eater, start by remembering that this phase will likely pass and the less you worry, the more smoothly things will go. After you have taken a deep breath, try these five tips:
- Mix healthy foods in with favorite foods. Many parents puree broccoli, cauliflower, squash and other healthy veggies and mix them in with pasta, rice, eggs and pancakes.
- Put a new food on the plate. You can decide your own rules about whether or not a child has to try every food served, but often exposure, not insistence, is the key to getting them to branch out. I find that by putting a bit of everything on a child’s plate, they will eventually try the new food on their own. Usually the third time is a charm!
- Cook together. Children love to try the things that they help make, so involve them in the cooking and baking.
- Try new foods yourself. Model adventurous eating for your child and always offer them a chance to try your food at restaurants. They may resist at first, but in the long run this is the best way to develop healthy eating habits.
- Cook one meal for the whole family. Offering toddlers choices that are more “kid friendly,” such as pizza or chicken nuggets, when the rest of the family is eating salmon, asparagus and rice, creates a sense of difference and feeds into power struggles. Children might not eat all the dishes served, but they usually will get enough and can always catch up at the next meal.
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