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7 ways to get your kids to try new foods

You are in the kitchen preparing, yet again, two separate meals for dinner because your child, the picky eater, refuses to try anything new. Mealtimes in restaurants are a battle if your child’s preferred foods are not on the menu, and you are stuck searching for the specific brand in a specific container as you trudge down the grocery store aisles. 

Does this sound familiar?

You are not the only parent with bags of chicken nuggets and dry cereal boxes taking over your kitchen space. You are not the only parent who is at wit’s end, arguing with your child at the table or struggling to even get your child to sit with you at mealtimes. Here at Kinetic, we know all too well the frustration parents encounter when trying to expand food interests and giving their child a balanced diet. We have some handy go-to tricks that are sure to start getting your child to venture outside of their comfort zone and begin exploring new food choices.

        • Offer a choice

          You will need to work with your child on choices that are appropriate, but ultimately you as the parent control what options are presented. Your child then feels empowered to choose what he or she wants to try. When a child feels like they have more say in the decision, they are more likely to try something new.

        • Involve your child in grocery shopping

          Look through ads or pictures and have your child select foods that look interesting to them. This can also be done by walking through the grocery store. You can make a pact to try four new foods in one week and allow the child to select two foods, and you as the parent select two new foods.

        • Let your child help with meal preparation

          The best way to safely explore new foods is by observation. This limits the pressure of putting new food in the mouth, and the preparation stage allows the child to see and smell the foods. Have the child participate in mixing or slicing foods, or simply have them set the foods out on the workspace and assist with clearing the space at the end of the meal prep.

        • Offer new foods when your child is around other kids

          Kids often look to friends for support and social guidance. In a low-pressure environment, present new foods and allow your child to take direction from the other kids in their environment. A child is more likely to imitate the actions of peers (peer modeling).

        • Reassure your child that it is okay to spit out foods

          Imagine placing something in your mouth that feels awkward or yucky and being forced to swallow it down. Your child is supposed to trust you when it comes to trying new things, even foods. By giving your child the chance to spit out non-preferred foods, you are praising them for putting the food in their mouth while supporting their decision to not accept it as preferred right now. This helps build trust around new food experiences and allows the child to again have some control over how they experience new foods.

        • Have time for food play

          Let your child be creative with food exploration. Try painting with broccoli brushes or finger painting with condiments. Create animals out of carrot sticks or build funny faces out of different fruits.

        • Be patient and supportive!

          I know. This is the hard one. Food exploration is the easy part, but the destination of food acceptance is a journey. It may take more than 20 exposures for a child to determine whether a food is truly preferred or not. Each child needs numerous chances to engage their senses of touch, smell, and taste to truly experience new food. Offer opportunities, offer praise for what the child is willing to do with food and avoid force-feeding.

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