How do I get my picky toddler to try new foods?
Real Mom Problem
“The only thing he ever wants to eat is corndogs, fish sticks, or mac and cheese. I feel like the worst mom ever!”
- 1. Keep servings small
- 2. Offer yummy dips and sauces with healthy foods
- 3. Cut foods into fun shapes or arrange into silly faces
- 4. Let your toddler help with the shopping and meal preparations
- 5. Try to relax. If your pediatrician's not worried, you shouldn't be
Real Mom Solutions
Don't feel bad, lots of moms are dealing with the same thing! You can get your child to try new foods, but it might take some time -- and creativity! Try some of these tips from real moms of CafeMom.
Just Keep Trying (and Be Patient!)
I've got a picky eater too. Best advice I can give is this: Just leave food out. You want her to try some of an orange? Just put the slices on a plate & leave it out for her to try. You want her to try apple? Slice up and put out to nibble on. Don't make a big deal of trying new things - just leave it out there. Sometimes they just don't like you to see them trying the new thing or want to be strong-willed about it and not try what you want them to. Leaving it out to nibble on leaves it up to them, at their own speed & pace.
I think the biggest one is just don't give up, keep offering the healthy foods because if you stop offering them, there really is a 0% chance that they will ever try them. That and stay away from junk food. A kid who is not eating balanced meals should not get junk food on a regular basis.
I always make something that I know they will eat but give them something I know they do not like. For example, if I make chicken tenders, I will give them a veggie side (like broccoli, potatoes, carrots, etc). I make homemade chicken tenders so I will only give them half of one. That way, they will still be hungry and more likely to try the disliked food. If they try it and do not like it, they can have another chicken tender, but, they have to try it first.
Keep in mind that it sometimes takes at least 10 tries for a child to warm up to a food. Don't discard it after only a few tries. And, come back to it in a month. Let it rest. I have a friend who made a food chart and her son has to try a food 10 times and write that on the chart before he can say he doesn't like it. She rewards him for this. I think it's a great idea.
I have found with my son you just need to keep offering it to him. I have also discovered not to make a big deal when he eats something new. When I do this he stops eating it and won't try it again. It has to be his idea.
Don't Push It
When picky eating is just a normal part of development, there's nothing parents can do to change their children. Providing pleasant meals without pressure is key. When children are ready they will start to try new foods.
Don't ever force your child to eat anything. Just encourage by example.
My second child wouldn't eat any sandwich so I started using cookie cutters and putting them in shapes. Then I found this sandwich press that had Mickey Mouse. Then he wanted everything pressed and I could sneak in veggies and stuff and he never said anything.
I made my picky daughter baked, breaded green beans for lunch today and called them "green french fries," and she ate them!
When I cooked orzo for my son, I told him it was baby pasta! He loved it.
Sweet rainbow wands (fruit kabobs)! What kid wouldn't want a rainbow wand? It can be magical and give them special powers (because it's healthy).
My son didn't want to eat carrots until one day I bought the raw ones that are cut round and crinkly and I told him they were "carrot chips" even though they were really just plain carrots cut that way. He ate them right up and asked for them a lot. Now he eats carrots any time, any way.
I started buying the Zoo Pals plates, bowls, and cups for my boys. When I am introducing a new food, I will put it in one of these and tell my son he has to finish his plate to see which animal is underneath. He thinks of it as a game and will at least try something new. Even if he doesn't like it, it's a good way to encourage him to try new things.
I've noticed a lot of fear comes from just stating the names of foods. We just got him to love chocolate covered raisins - we literally ripped the label off the container, and told him they were "chocolate balls". And he has no idea there are raisins in them! I don't like lying to him, try to be honest in my parenting, but it has to happen to get him to try new things.
My son is not a big meat fan. He likes bacon and that's about it. He especially hates chicken. So at Easter we had bacon meat (aka: ham). And the other day when we went out to eat at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, he asked me what the meat was (it was shredded chicken) and I told him it was Mexican bacon. It actually worked. He ate it!
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By involving kids in the cooking process, natural curiosity will make them want to ask questions. If they are afraid to try new foods, it's always a good idea to make sure they have not snacked recently before the meal, otherwise, they aren't hungry and they are less likely to bite.
Over the years, I've found that "not making a big deal" out of it, works well. Just reminding them that these are the things our bodies need for energy, we're like cars and we need fuel to run. Some children are simply afraid of the texture or visual characteristics -that's why blenders & knives are so great.
Have them help to create a cookbook of foods they like and gently incorporate other foods into the recipes. It takes time... and sometimes, if they don't like it, there is nothing that's going to change their minds. My teenager still can't stand the smells of certain cheeses, and that's okay. There are plenty of foods he can enjoy. If all else fails, just focus on the foods they enjoy, if they are able to meet their daily requirements then that's great!
Homemade pizzas are great, let them top them, make faces out of them etc. with a variety of choices.
Lastly, some times it's just a "power and control" issue. They have control over their eating and they know you aren't going to force feed them, some enjoy watching the frustrated looks and the begging. After all, they think the world revolves around them at 2 or 3.