Here are 8 tips for preschool and young school-aged kids who are hesitant to try new foods. Scan below to watch the video of Dr. Yum's tips, too!
1. Resist the urge to call your child a "picky eater": Try using the more positive words like "learning eater," "exploring eater" or a "practicing eater" when speaking about their eating habits in front of them. We want kids to understand that they can learn and evolve, and not be "stuck" as a hesitant eater. Feeding is a developmental skill like reading or riding a bike. Provide the same kind of encouragement to help them acquire this new skill.
2. Try, Try Again: It may take 10-15 or more tries to develop the taste for new foods. That's a lot of tries, so don't give up! Use the "yum score" from doctoryum.org to help your child taste foods and encourage them that as they try, food will get more yummy. The proteins in our mouth change as we try foods and make foods taste different and yummier!
3. Try small tasting bites on the premolars: When kids chomp on those "dinosaur" teeth they are less likely to gag. Keep bites the size of a fingertip or a diced carrot you would find in a bag of frozen veggies. Try saying, "Chomp! Chomp!" and bang your fists on the table to make it fun and distract from intense tastes.
4. Offer a swish of water: If your child is sensitive to new tastes, keep a straw cup of water to swish down a tasting bite. You can celebrate the bravery it took to try the new food, and later as your child gets used to the taste you may not need the water.
5. Cook with kids: Regular cooking experiences help kids get more familiar with new foods using other senses and can lead to trying and enjoying foods down the road. Cooking can be a great time to connect, learn about food and develop new skills.
6. Limit snacking: When kids are full of snacks they are less likely to try new foods. Make sure to leave at least 1-2 hours between meals and snacks to let hunger develop. A little bit of hunger may drive kids to try less familiar foods.
7. Limit favorite foods: When offering a variety of foods, make sure there is a food on the plate they sometimes like, along with new foods that they are learning to like. But when we always put their very favorite foods on the plate, kids are less likely to explore. Rotate favorite foods off the plate to encourage trying.
8. Don't hide veggies: It's okay to "pack" veggies into smoothies, sauces, eggs, pasta, meatballs, etc. But also keep veggies on the plate in plain sight so kids get used to seeing them and eventually comfortable enough to try them.
Check out Dr. Yum's YouTube channel for a wide array of topics including:
- Dr. Yum's Picky Eater Tips video outlines the 8 tips above in even more detail!