Trying to get your child to eat new food can feel like the hardest task. Screams are heard, crying (from both parent and child), and an increased level of stress can form around mealtime. Getting your child to try new foods should not be so stressful. Here are some easy to help your child become more willing to try new food!
How to Introduce New Foods Children are often bribed or punished to get them to try new foods. These techniques may work one time however, children will learn how to avoid eating a new food regardless of these tactics. To have your child try new food, you want to have them help with the preparation of it. For example, if you want your child to eat a carrot, have them help you wash, and if they are old enough peel the carrot with supervision.
Play With Your Food
By taking away the stress of “you have to eat this” you are having your child learn about the food with their other senses. Let's continue with the previous example I gave. After your child has washed and prepped your carrot, you can play with the carrot. For example, cut the carrot into slices to make circles then see if your child can put the carrot back together. Touching, smelling, and seeing the carrot will desensitize your child to the carrot.
Be Involved With Mealtime Prep
Have your child try to scoop the carrots onto each person's plate. By seeing everybody has a carrot on their plate, they will learn that this is what is expected and they are ok. Do not force your child to eat the carrot. Instead, model the appropriate behavior and have others eat their piece of the carrot in front of your child. Tell them what a great job they did preparing the food. This will help your child feel a sense of pride and accomplishment around the food.
Portion Control Do not expect your tiny toddler to eat a large amount of a new food. Set your goal to be realistic. If your child hesitates to eat the food, then your goal should be to touch the food or smell the food. If they eat one bite, that is great and should be considered a win.
Keep Introducing the Food If you are working with carrots, stick to it. After a few days, your child will have become desensitized and will be more likely to eat it.
Where To Start Fruits are naturally sweet and are a great start. You can use a melon baller or fun cookie-cutter shapes to make the fruit more visually appealing and more likely to engage your child. Vegetables can be used alongside dips. I cut celery, carrots, and colored peppers to make them more appealing. Then I place various dips and ask the kids to pick their vegetables and which dip they want to try. This way they have control of what they want to eat.
Is it just picky eating or is it a problem? If your child displays other areas of concern such as tactile sensitivity, does not like loud noises, has poor coordination then they may have SPD and should be assessed.
Change is hard no matter what age. If your child has a hard time with new foods, use the strategies mentioned above to make eating a more pleasurable experience.