Toddlers are known for being finicky about food. They tend to take issue with whatever they can. The problem could be with the taste, the texture, the smell, and even just the look of it. One toddler may have a problem eating anything light-colored while another may be suspicious of anything that has some sort of sauce in it.
Getting them to try new foods is usually an exercise in futility. Nonetheless, their pediatric growth chart must reflect that they’re thriving. For that, they need to have variety in their diet.
Introducing New Foods
It’s tempting to just give in and let them eat whatever they prefer to eat, even if it’s the same thing over and over again. Why rock the boat and disrupt a relatively quiet mealtime with power struggles, right? With a little imagination and ingenuity, you can keep the peace while also providing a healthy diet for picky eaters.
In order not to lose your patience or feel too frustrated, keep in mind that your little ones are still in the process of developing their taste preferences. Also, it takes time for them to cotton to new things, including food. Parenting experts indicate that toddlers may need to be exposed to a new food about 15 times before they’ll give it a chance.
Here are some ways you can try to increase the odds of your children consuming new food. Don’t forget to be mindful of choking hazards and food sensitivities.
1. Start with small portions.
A big portion can be overwhelming, especially if the main course is a strange one to your kids. With just a small serving, they wouldn’t be as intimidated by it. It also wouldn’t be as big of a commitment.
2. Partner new food with a known favorite.
Hopefully, your kids will make a positive association between their favorite food and the new one. There’s also the risk that they’ll focus on the known and ignore the unknown, but, at least, the new food isn’t as scary, and your kids will have something in their belly in case they adamantly refuse your latest offering.
3. Let them be hungry at mealtime.
You’ll have a higher chance of getting them to eat something new if they’re too hungry to be picky. We’re not talking about starvation here, but just a reasonable amount of hunger by mealtime, which perhaps means scheduling snack time much earlier than usual or skipping it altogether. Try to create a scenario wherein they can’t afford to refuse food.
4. Make new food as interesting as possible.
You can take some extra steps just to build up interest in what you’re introducing. You can talk it up, read a story or article that features it, or watch a video of people eating it.
You can make serving it more fun as well, such as serving it on cute dinnerware or presenting it as food art. You can also choose to serve it during a picnic, preferably after they’ve been running around building hunger.
5. Demonstrate enjoyment of it.
The first time you expose them to the food, don’t serve it to them. Instead, let them observe you enjoying it. You can talk about why you like it or mention some interesting tidbits about the dish or the ingredients in it.
Hopefully, their curiosity will be piqued enough for them to ask to try it. It might also help to serve them something that may have already gotten boring for them at the same time.
6. Conduct a “study” for each new food you introduce.
It might be fun for your children to come up with reviews of food they’re sampling for the first time. You can even print out a chart where they can put check marks or stickers in columns that correctly describe the new food. Is it sweet or salty? Smooth or rough? Hot or cold? Dry or wet? Soft or crunchy?
7. Offer without pressure, but keep on serving it.
Again, it may take them 15 servings before they give it a chance, but if you keep on offering it without forcing them to eat it, they’ll be inclined to feel more benevolent toward it.
Vegetables are harder to introduce because they have a bitter component that young children are particularly averse to. Make their introduction as pleasant as possible in a way that they can refuse it without developing an aversion to it.
Weathering the Picky Phase
Put more thought into the introduction of new dishes to increase your chances of success, but don’t take it as a personal failing when they refuse to eat what you serve them. Be patient. In time, they will progress past the picky stage.