With more time spent at home, the pandemic has encouraged home cooking and family dinners, and has positively changed the way we feed our kids. In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by OnePoll in conjunction with Sabra, 73% of parents say they’re limiting their kids’ sugar intake and 79% say they’re stocking their pantries with healthy snacks this school year. While this is encouraging news, it’s not always easy to get kids to make healthy choices or be more healthy, adventurous eaters. If you want to learn how to get picky eaters to try new foods, here are three of my top tips.
HOW TO GET PICKY EATERS TO TRY NEW FOODS WITH THESE 3 TIPS
Forget sneaky tactics, bribing, and negotiating. Encouraging your kids to try new foods and be healthy, adventurous little foodies doesn’t have to be tough.
SERVE A VARIETY OF NEW FOODS
You might think your picky eaters will only eat a handful of their favorite foods, but research shows the key to getting kids to try new foods is to serve a variety of foods and let them make choices within those you think are acceptable.
According to a recent 3-part study out of Northwestern University, children who don’t have strong preferences for certain foods are more likely to choose a couple of foods rather than just one.
Also, when kids were asked to pre-select all of their snacks for the week, instead of choosing one snack a day, they chose a wider variety of foods, including fruit.
Here are some ways to serve a variety of foods at meals and snack time:
- Serve snacks in a muffin tray.
- Take out leftovers and make dinner a buffet.
- Have a make-your-own taco, pasta, or pizza night.
- Serve a bowl of salad and let your kids choose the ingredients. I like this Wood Bowl Chopping Set because it makes chopped salads easy and it allows your kids to help too.
- Serve 2 types of vegetables and let your kids choose if they want to eat one or both.
- Bring your children to the farmers’ market and let them pick out a new vegetable to try and make at home.
- Make a charcuterie board of fruits, vegetables, and other foods—it doesn’t have to be Instagram-worthy!
- Pack lunch (for school or remote learning) in a bento box.
- Try different cooking methods and different types of cuisines, and serve foods in different ways. For example, serve broccoli separate from chicken, mixed into rice, or on an appetizer plate or in a mug.
COOK WITH YOUR KIDS
One of the best ways to get your picky eaters to try new foods is to get them in the kitchen with you—and research backs it up.
According to a March 2019 study in the journal BMC Nutrition, when kids feel confident in their cooking skills, they consume more fruits and vegetables and have healthier diets overall.
If you don’t like to cook or don’t know your way around the kitchen, take heed because the same is true for kids who watch healthy cooking shows and take cooking classes.
According to a 2014 study in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, cooking classes for kids is associated with an increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, and fiber, a greater willingness to try new foods, and more confidence in their ability to prepare foods.
Cooking with your kids allows them to learn what a healthy plate looks like, empowers them to make healthy choices, and gives them confidence in the kitchen.
TRY REPEATED EXPOSURES
While you may be apt to try new foods yourself, put yourself in your kids’ shoes for a minute.
They’re probably used to eating the same favorite foods every day and if you’re lucky, they even eat a handful of fruits and vegetables.
When you serve a new food that doesn’t look familiar, is green, or has a texture your kids don’t like, however, they’re not likely to try it.
Also, when you were a kid, chances are, you didn’t like to try new foods either.
Keep in mind that just like every other parenting challenge, encouraging your picky eaters to try new foods takes time.
In fact, a 2015 study in the journal Pediatrics found that it can take between 8 and 15 times of introducing a new food for a child to accept it.
So pack your patience and stay consistent.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends serving kids age-appropriate portions. For example, for children 1 to 3 years old, 1/4 cup of beans is a portion.
Instead of overwhelming your child with an entire portion, however, try serving a pea-sized amount and let your kids explore the food using all of their senses, Dr. Dina Rose, author of It’s Not About The Broccoli, stated in this article.