Kids are notoriously picky eaters, especially when it comes to trying new foods. Some parents can’t even get their kids to take a single bite of some foods, no matter how much they beg and barter. Eventually, their choosiness can prevent the entire family from going out to dinner or enjoying mealtime.
If you’ve reached this point already, know that you’re not alone. More importantly, there’s hope on the horizon. The next time your little one throws a fit over dinner, try out one of these smart tips. Odds are they’ll be smacking their lips and asking for more in no time.
1. Avoid Snacking
This tidbit might seem like a no-brainer, but kids are less likely to try new foods if they’re already full. And, even if they’re not completely full, they may use recent snacking as an excuse not to try something. Therefore, it’s best to avoid serving your kids heavy snacks and beverages between meals.
If, however, your little ones get the midday munchies and cannot wait until dinner, try giving them something healthy to nibble on. Alternatively, you could offer a selection of fruits or vegetables they’ve yet to taste. If they’re hungry enough, they might take a bite.
2. Cook Together
Your child might not be old enough to wield a knife, but they can mix, mash, stir, and taste test. Invite your little one into the kitchen, give them their own apron and utensils and get to work baking and cooking new recipes.
This simple yet effective tip will build basic skills and encourage them to try new foods. Why? Having them handle, cut, and cook new ingredients will cultivate a sense of pride and accomplishment they wouldn’t have experienced had you served them the same dish. Seeing the final product after all their hard work could incentivize them to at least taste test their creation, and, odds are, they’ll thoroughly enjoy it.
3. Start Small
Whenever you decide to introduce your kids to something new, it’s best to start small. Doing so will allow you to gauge their reaction and work up to bigger portions and bolder flavors as they grow.
Strategically plan meals to include two or three of your child’s favorite foods and one new one. While you shouldn’t force them to clear their plate, you should encourage them to try at least one bite of everything. Make sure the new food is rather bland or mild and tastes similar to foods you know they enjoy. For instance, you might substitute tilapia for chicken and transition to something more flavorful and nutritious like salmon or tuna.
4. Get Sneaky
Most kids would rather indulge in sweets and starches than eat their greens, even if they don’t mind the taste of vegetables. That’s why some parents have to rely on stealth and cunning to help their children get their daily dose of produce.
Get sneaky and use covert cuisine to add everything from avocados to kale into their diet. Add black beans to homemade hamburgers, pureed vegetables to spaghetti sauce, and zucchini to quick slices of bread and muffins. Odds are your children won’t even notice the slight difference in flavor or texture.
5. Taste Together
Of course, there’ll be times when you can’t sneak new foods onto your kids’ plate. On these days — and every day, for that matter — it’s important to try things as a family. Make a new rule that requires everyone at the table to taste every item on their plate. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to eat it. However, everyone must try.
Remember that just because one of your children doesn’t enjoy a certain food, that doesn’t mean they never will. Often, repeated exposure will help them accept the flavor and maybe even come to love it. So don’t hesitate to serve the same food two, three or ten times and make the whole family try it again.
6. Make It a Game
Sometimes, no rule or amount of begging will convince your kids to try a certain food. In this case, you may have to rely on trickery again — or just plain old fun.
Make a game of taste-testing by blindfolding your partner and kids and having them identify different fruits and vegetables. Let them use all their senses to make guesses and prepare a tasty reward for the person who guesses the most foods correctly. Organizing this activity away from the dinner table will take the pressure off trying new things and foster a safe, fun atmosphere that incentivizes courage and silliness.
Set Up for Success
Introducing your kids to new textures and flavors is an ongoing challenge for many parents. However, with a little creativity and a lot of patience, you’re sure to make some headway and find foods your children truly enjoy. In doing so, you’ll set your kids up for a healthy, happy life full of exciting new adventures and experiences.