While every parent wishes their child would be an adventurous eater, some children are just picky. However you slice it, dice it and mix it, they just won’t try it. If you have a picky eater in your house, here are a few creative ideas to help them expand their food horizon.
In the beginning, allow excess dips, sauces and spices to mask the full flavor of the new item. Then, slowly cut back on how much is allowed. A warm sauce of melted Velveeta cheese works wonders on steamed broccoli.
Try something “new” every night, ranging from new vegetables and fruits to different casseroles to eating something raw that they normally only eat cooked. For example, try going from frozen broccoli to steamed fresh, then to raw with dip, finally moving to plain raw.
This is key to getting a picky eater’s mind around a new food. Have them try just a spoonful of butternut squash. Teach them to use, “May I have a small portion, please?” which is helpful when having dinner at a friend’s house and inevitably something new is being served. You can also require a “No thank you.” bite. They can say, “No thank you.” after they have tried it. Teach them to use these phrases to show respect, and at the same time, not get overwhelmed by the new food.
Plant a vegetable garden with a huge variety of produce, from red cabbage and kale to carrots and potatoes. Having kids involved in the process, picking out seedlings and sections of their own gets them more excited about fresh broccoli and sugar snap peas.
The American Heart Association recommends 4-5 servings per day of both fruits and vegetables.
Play with food. Cook together and let them smell the food. Try raw ingredients (where possible) before cooking them, and let them be the boss in the vegetable aisle when shopping. Tell stories about the food. (e.g. All the peas are having a party in your stomach, now the carrots want to have a party, too.)
Tastes change. If foods are rejected at a very young age, all is not lost. Just cultivate the idea of always “checking in” on bad foods. Try again in a while; you may find that cooked peas will still be denied, but potato salad may end up being great.
Say the word. Toddlers learn by developing categories – and it is unfortunate when “vegetables” become a known category. If “eating your veggies” is important to you, never say it. Say “eat your beans” or “eat your carrots” etc. If not, your child might start out not liking their beans or their carrots and all of a sudden say: “I don’t like veggies.”