How to get fussy kids to try new foods.

Fussy eaters – we all know one, have one or were one! So how do we get our kids to try new foods? It can be exhausting trying to get your child to finish their plate or eat the piece of broccoli. There’s also the added concern that maybe your child isn’t getting the right amount of nutrients, as they may only like potatoes and won’t touch anything green.

It’s important to recognise that pickiness is a way of exerting a newfound sense of independence. Appetites do fluctuate as children go from babies, to toddlers, to pre-schoolers, depending on growth spurts and activity levels. It’s also can be a positive part of a child’s development, as they get to explore new things and make decisions for themselves. Often, what they don’t eat one day they will make up for the next. As long as they are growing normally, trying to introduce new foods can be fun. Here are my top tips on how to get fussy kids to try new foods:

Consistency is Key

Don’t expect them to be super keen the first time you get your child to eat something new. It may take up to 15 exposures to finally get them to try something new. Allowing your child, the option to eat something new, get used to the look, texture, smell even – can all lead to them being happier to try it. This allows for independence and exploration, without forcing compliance. The more a child is exposed to a vegetable or fruit, the more likely they will reach for it to try it.

When dishing the plate, try adding the one new item next to something they are familiar with. If they chose not to eat it the first time, keep putting it there so they become familiar with it, too. Encouraging them to taste it may be easier then, trying to get them to eat it, even if it’s just licking it and then putting it down. If they do taste it, encourage how ‘yummy’ it was.

Make it fun!

This goes without saying – when the world is so exciting from young eyes, dinner should be too! If you child isn’t keen on trying new things, make it fun for them. This can be done in a number of ways, such as cutting foods into pictures, sandwiches in funny shapes. Make it colourful! Talk about how it looks like a rainbow.

Let them play with their food. This may make you think straight away about the mess but allowing your kids to sniff and smoosh foods may improve their trust for it. It’s also important to make mealtimes a fun time. Don’t sweat the small stuff when it comes to trying new foods – try to ignore the spilt peas and focus on providing a safe happy environment for your kids to try new things.

You can also make it a bit of a game by trying to asking them questions about a new food. For example, you could ask your child what the taste difference is between red and green capsicum? Which pea is the greenest?

Keep them involved

Keeping your child involved in the process of meal preparation with give them a sense of pride when it comes to eating. Take them grocery shopping and ask them which new vegetable they would like to try this week. Involve them in food preparation like washing the vegetables. Let them help you cook & plate the food so they have achieved something. This can make kids have ownership over their food and they may be more likely to try what they’ve spent so much effort on!

If you have the opportunity to do it, getting your child involved with gardening may also inspire them to try something new too, as they are forming a relationship with the food as they are tending to it.

Educate & Communicate

Kid’s brains are so absorbent, which is why it can be fun to educate them about the food they are eating. They may not understand what ‘healthy eating’ is just yet, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have to talk to them about it. Education is another way to keep kids interested in trying new things – maybe talking about where a particular plant is native to, or what animals like to eat it (i.e., Monkey’s love bananas!). Eventually you might like to talk about actual health benefits, for example “yoghurt makes your belly happy!”.

If you’re wanting your child to eat broccoli, it may be okay to blend it up into a Bolognese sauce. But if your child notices a small tree in her bowl, communicate what it is so they are aware. Maybe they will be unhappy about this at first – but you can then use this opportunity to show them what broccoli looks like normally and provide them the educational opportunity to learn more about it.

Reward OR Ignore

Trying to ignore the fussiness can be infuriating! Although, it can be the most important step in getting them to try new things. Instead of making a big deal out of them not trying something, save that energy for when they do. Reward your child trying something new by stickers, or praise, or a non-food treat. If they don’t eat it, remain neutral, to ensure they still feel supported and safe. This way, they won’t have their guard up when they see the new food item again.

You can keep this fun by making a sticker chart or getting them to draw a rainbow with the colours of the food they ate at the meal!

This stage can be hard, so hang in there! If you’re concerned your child is not getting the needed nutrients or if you need any extra support book in to see me for more tips and tricks.

Make an appointment to speak about it today.