Dealing With Picky Eaters
01/03/2013 Lots of children are really picky. How do we get them to try new foods?
Most children have a natural suspicion of new foods - an evolutionary hangover which protects us against poisoning - and the vast majority of children will at some point in their life go through a stage of being picky, unadventurous or unwilling to try foods with an open mind. How long this phase lasts depends on the child's personality as much as on their environment, and some will hold out for longer and with more vehemence than others. But as adults we can do an awful lot to make that stage less scary and to help them out the other side to a life where food is adventurous and fun.
The main thing to remember is - don't lose heart, don't give up, and don't feel guilty. An average child takes 5-20 tries of a new food before their palate even really makes a genuine decision about whether they like it or not. So a more suspicious child may take many many tiny bites to decide. Plus, children's taste buds change as they grow and foods can change their appeal, positively and negatively, over time. If we give up after one try, or three, or even ten, and say "Right clearly they are never going to like that food" and never serve it to them ever again, we are condemning them to a life where that food is never an option again. Of course everyone has preferences. You don't have to pile a child's plate high with foods they are not keen on. But a consistent exposure to small amounts of different foods gives a child a chance to change their mind if they want to. They can choose to never like it. They can choose to tolerate it. Or they can choose to grow to love it. If it doesn't ever appear on their plate they have no choices at all.
There are lots of ideas on this site to make trying foods fun - such as the monthly Tasting Game using seasonal foods and a bit of competition. For more ideas you can download the free report How To Get Your Kids To Love Fruit And Vegetables. There are lots of great blogs out there from moms and dads dealing with picky eaters and their strategies for helping them to widen their palates and stay healthy are really practical.
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