Encouraging young children to taste new foods is the key to building a healthy diet. To help children explore new tastes, consider these strategies:
- Remember, a taste is just a taste
- A taste can be as small as ½ teaspoon. When introducing a new food, let the child determine the amount he or she wants to try.
- Take one step at a time
- Don’t overwhelm the child. Offer only one new food at a time. Let the child know whether it is sweet, sour, or salty.
What Goes In, May Come Out…and That’s Okay
At this age, children don’t swallow every food they put in their mouths. Recent studies indicate that children are more likely to try new foods if they have the option of not swallowing them. Show children how to carefully spit the food into a napkin if they don’t want to eat it. In the long run, when not forced to swallow a new food, children are more likely to try it again at a later date.
If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again!
The more often a food is presented, whether or not it is eaten, the more positive the attitude of the child becomes toward that food. Research shows that children need a new food offered at least 8 to 10 times before most will try it; therefore, you should continue to offer nutritious foods despite children’s resistance. Eventually they are likely to give non-familiar foods a try.
Be a Role Model
Children are not born with food preferences; they acquire them. If you want children to try a new food, make sure you taste it in front of the children. Imitation is a powerful force in learning.
Capitalize on “Food Tasting” Peers
Studies have found that children are more likely to eat a new food if they see their friends eating and enjoying the food. To encourage a reluctant taster to try a new food, have him or her sit with some enthusiastic tasters.
Serve an unfamiliar food with familiar ones
Serving an unfamiliar food with familiar foods increases the likelihood that a child will taste the new food.
Color Makes a Difference
In selecting new foods, remember that children prefer foods with:
Bright colors, such as orange carrots or green peas;
Milder flavors, such as milk, custard, or bananas;
Interesting textures, like crunchy fruits or smooth puddings
Finally: You can lead them to a new food, but you can’t make them eat
Never force a child to eat a particular food. Offer it. If he or she doesn’t want to eat it, simply take the food away and present it at a different time.