It’s mealtime, and you’ll be serving something new. How can you encourage your child to try it?
Here are some ideas, check off the ones you'd like to try with your family or that you do already:
Offer choices. Instead of asking, “Do you want broccoli for dinner?” ask, “Which would you rather have, broccoli or carrots?”
Respect the child’s rules. For example, respect the "no foods touching" rule or the “no crusts” rule if those are important to your child.
Don’t take special orders. Avoid becoming a "short-order cook." Expect your child to eat what the rest of the family eats. Prepare at least one of your child's favorite foods for each meal, even if it's the same thing over again.
Change things up. If your child dislikes a food, try cooking it differently. For example, you could add new ingredients to old favorites — shredded carrots in meatballs or mashed pumpkin in muffins.
Try a lookalike. If your child likes a certain food, consider swapping it for a similar food. For example, if your child likes mashed white potatoes try serving mashed sweet potatoes.
Make the food fun. Cut the food into fun shapes. Use cookie cutters for soft foods like peanut butter sandwiches and pancakes. Arrange veggies into a smiling face on your child’s plate. Give the new food a fun name. For instance, when serving broccoli, call it a fairy tree.
Set the scene. Turn off the TV. Help children think of mealtime as a time to enjoy food and to talk about fun and happy things. Try using "Cards to start mealtime chats" to get your family talking.
Try the buddy system. Seat a picky eater beside a friend, brother or sister who is a good eater. This is helpful when you give them a new food.
Start slowly. Introduce one new food at a time. Let your child know if the new food will taste sweet, salty or sour. Offer the new food when your child is most likely to be hungry, and offer it as the first food item of the meal or snack.
Make a friendly plate. Serve a new food along with foods your child already likes. He or she will be more likely to try the new food. For example, serve a peanut butter sandwich made with one piece of white bread and one piece of whole wheat bread.
Make it pretty. Most children prefer bright colored foods with fun textures, such as crunchy carrots or celery.
Skip the sauce. Serve food plain. Many children like foods they can easily recognize.
Let your child explore. When giving a new food, do more than ask your child if he or she wants some. Let your child see it on the plate or in his or her cup or hand. Encourage your child to look at, touch and smell the food before trying a small bite.
Give tiny tastes. Let your child decide the amount of food to try. Then wait for him or her to ask for more. Tell your child it’s okay to eat tiny amounts such as half a spoonful.
A taste is enough. Encourage children to at least taste foods. Never force them to eat a food. If the food is not eaten, simply take it away and try it again later.
Focus on the positive. Praise the small, positive steps a child makes in trying a food, for example, by smelling it or touching it. Avoid making negative comments if the child decides not to taste the food. Avoid calling your child a picky eater. Your child believes what you say.
Don’t demand a clean plate. Trust your child's hunger. Forcing children to clean their plate may lead them to eat too much.
Have an exit plan. Let kids not swallow a food if they don’t like the taste. Show them how to carefully spit the food into a napkin.