Low-Pressure Ways to Encourage Picky Eaters to Branch Out

Low-Pressure Ways to Encourage Picky Eaters to Branch Out

Try these strategies to help finicky kids eat a variety of healthy foods.

By Lorraine Allen

Some kids eat anything, and love trying new foods, while others are less, well, adventurous (to put it nicely). If your little one would eat chicken nuggets and orange slices at every meal if she had her way, these tips might help her embrace trying new foods – even if she doesn’t like them at first.

1. Let picky eaters chose what they eat half the time, but also make it a point to constantly serve even just a few bites of other stuff they "don't like." When I was a kid I really didn’t enjoy eating any greens, but because they were served daily, and I always had to take a few bites with my dinner, by the time I was a tween I realized I actually really enjoyed them. My own daughter claimed to “hate” mushrooms, which didn’t surprise me, but because my husband and I happen to love them, we still cooked mushrooms sauce or gravy, or roasted them with our veggies or added them to soups and greens, about twice a week. Suddenly, the other day, at age 8, my daughter ate one and decided she now “loves” them.

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2. Offer kids a variety of foods. The more options of different tastes and food types kids are consistently offered, the more likely they are to want to try them. Also vary cooking techniques – a child who has decided they hate raw carrots might love them pureed with apples, or roasted in olive oil until caramelized and sweet.

3. Bring your kids to the store and let them chose a few new things to try, like a weird looking exotic fruit, strange-colored rice, or a new spice or sauce mix. Watching kids’ cooking competitions on TV or looking at food magazines and cookbooks together might also inspire them to try new foods.

4. My personal favorite and probably the most fun and effective way to entice kids to taste new things is to simply prepare and cook meals together with them, and get creative with the things you make and try as a family, on a regular basis. Confess what foods you don’t really like, and let your child suggest a new recipe or technique that might help you change your mind!


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5. Do the dishes together – you can wash with Dawn, and your little helper can carefully dry – and use the time to talk about what your child did (or didn’t) like, and why. When you’re done, sit down and make a list of techniques, flavors, or foods to try next time.

How do you encourage your kids to try new foods?

Lorraine is a parenting, health and food writer, and shares her family’s allergy-friendly recipes at MixPlayEat.com.

Image ©iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

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