Meal time for families with picky eaters can be frustrating. In my experience, parents are willing to do anything to have their child eat. Most often parents become “short order cooks,” making multiple meals for the family, because they know that one (or more) of their children won’t eat (insert vegetable/protein here). Parents often will only make the few favorite/preferred foods, because they know their child will eat that. Continuing to Introduce (or reintroduce) new or non-preferred food is important, because it can take anywhere from 10 to 50 times (or more) that a food is presented before a child may try it.
Here are a few strategies to try out… and, of course, praise comes with each step!
1. Introduce a new food or previously rejected food item on a side plate near your child’s main plate. They don’t have to touch it or eat it, they only have to tolerate it being near them. This can take as long as a day or two or up to a week (or longer) depending on the child.
2. Once your child has tolerated having the food near their plate. Put the new/previously rejected food on their plate without the expectation of your child eating it. They don’t have to eat it, but they have to keep it on their plate.
3. Encourage your child to touch the food; pick it up, smell it, kiss it or touch it to their cheek. Don’t encourage your child to eat it just yet; just get your child used to touching the food item.
4. As your child becomes used to the food, encourage them to take a bite, and then they can spit it out in a separate bowl. I know that spitting out food seems counter intuitive, however, this step is more about trying a bite than eating.
5. Once your child is successful in taking bites, encourage preschooler to chew it 1 to 3 times before spitting it out; increase the number of chews as you see fit.
Trying new (or previously rejected) food can be challenging for you and your preschooler, however making it less stressful for your preschooler will help make mealtime for the family less stressful.