Our family likes to eat out but our child won’t eat anything beyond mac and cheese or chicken nuggets, which limits our restaurant choices. How can we help her expand her horizons so we can go to new places?
Torie Silverstone, MS, RD, CSP, registered dietitian and certified specialist in pediatric nutrition at Children’s Hospital Colorado, shares the following tips for parents:
Picky eating is common, and, oh, the battles surrounding it can be frustrating for both parents and kids. Helping your child expand their palate is a process of regular exposure to a variety of familiar and unfamiliar foods. The key is to support your child as they approach new foods on their own terms, so they don’t feel scared by it.
Tips to Introduce New Foods:
- Serve your child a small amount—no bigger than the size of a golf ball—of a non-preferred or new food on their plate each day.
- Fill most of the plate with well-liked foods. Think about a food you don’t like as an adult, and how you’d feel if you had a full plate of it served to you. That may feel intimidating; but just a bite next to yummy food? That’s okay.
- Be an example. Make it fun for the family to regularly try new foods together. Order a few appetizers and sample them together instead of ordering large main dishes.
- Serve a new food to your child that the rest of the family is eating. This allows your child to observe others enjoying the same food.
- Avoid asking your child to take a bite or commenting about the food. Just let it be on the plate. This is harder than you think, but pressuring kids to eat can make them shut down.
- Talk about the food only if your child interacts with it in a positive way, such as touching, smelling, or tasting it. Praise trying and ignore whining.
- Trust your child to eat what their body needs. As a parent, your job is to offer a balanced meal. After the meal is served, the child is in charge of whether or not to eat and how much.
Try this at a restaurant: Your child has ordered chicken nuggets. When the plates come out, place one spoonful of salmon or salad, for instance, from a parent’s plate onto your child’s plate. Don’t ask your child to take a bite. Just serve the food, ignore any whining and enjoy the meal.
This process is slow. Repeat daily and your child will eventually become comfortable with different foods. Then your family can enjoy new cuisines together.