Fussy Eater? 5 Ways to Get Your Kids to Try New Foods
Want your kids to literally beg you to let them try new foods? Want to cook one meal in the evening rather than always having a backup option? This might sound like a million miles away from the usual mealtime tantrums, but we have a few tricks to make your life easier.
Teaching kids to love food is just like teaching them to ride a bike – take it slowly and don't give up. Here are 5 ways to get your kids to try new foods and change their response from “yuk” to “yum”. Follow these steps and you’ll soon have them eating all the colours of the rainbow!
1. Take them to the weekly shop.
Taking them with you to the supermarket is a chance to teach them about food and can make them feel more involved in planning meals. Tell them interesting facts or stories to make them more curious about the foods you see in the store. For instance, you could tell them that broccoli is a tree from space, a carrot is a snowman’s nose or that spinach makes them run faster!
If they already have a favourite food, like chicken nuggets, then explain the link between chicken nuggets and chicken breasts and encourage them to add new foods to the basket themselves. You could even try growing some veggies at home – kids love getting their hands dirty and this helps them understand the relationship between what they grow and what they eat.
Check out the Royal Horticultural Society tips for growing your own.
2. Make bite-sized progress.
Take things one bite at a time. It’s easy to overload their plate and daunt them with portion size. If you’re asking them to try something new then start by offering a small amount, like a nibble of cheese or a tiny slice olive rather than a whole one. At least that way you can tell them to pinch their nose and promise them it will be over in a second!
REMEMBER that they will need to try something several times before they decide whether they like it, so stick with the same foods and gradually increase the portion size over time. It’s also a good idea to introduce new tastes at snack time rather than at lunch or dinner, just in case it puts them off their meal (and ruins yours).
3. Change the colour and texture.
Sometimes it’s NOT the taste that puts them off. If they are sensitive to colours or textures then it’s time to work some kitchen magic. Blending foods into a puree or disguising new ingredients in with a soup can help them to focus on the taste rather than the texture. You can then make the puree chunkier over time. In many cases they won’t even notice what they’re eating.
The same goes for colour. Try mixing healthy vegetables like a single sweet potato or a couple of stems of broccoli in with the white potato mash. Once they get used to the change of colour then you can gradually adjust the ratio. If they like tastes like sweet or spicy flavours then you can also try glazing the veg in honey or sprinkling over some chilli flakes to spice things up.
4. Cut out the junk food.
Your kids are more likely to try new foods if they have worked up a real appetite. The problem with junk food and snacks is that they are often packed with calories (and usually not the nutritious kind). Try to avoid unhealthy school lunches by making them a packed lunch at home and reduce liquid calories by cutting back on juice and fizzy drinks.
If you’re looking for lunch ideas, check out the NHS choices guide to preparing your child’s lunchbox. They have some great ideas for healthy snacks, such as chopped fruit and breadsticks. Variety is important, so make sure you add something different each week. You can even hide foods in their lunchbox like a single ‘crunchy surprise’ crisp in their sandwich!
5. Lead by example.
Our last tip is to practice what you preach. If you want them to eat more fruit and vegetables then you must lead by example. If you embrace this step then it can make a huge difference for the whole family. Whenever you ask them to try something new, make sure they also see you eating it. Yes, that means you have to rub your tummy, make the right noises and really sell it to them!
The ultimate goal is to do away with backup meals altogether. If they know there is no ‘plain’ option available then they will soon get used to eating whatever you cook. It can take time to build their confidence and open their minds to new foods, but if you take it slowly and introduce new flavours gradually then their fussy eating days will soon be a thing of the past.
If all else fails, tell them they can play outside on their scooter if they have one more spoonful… then watch the food disappear!