Having a varied and well-balanced diet is the ultimate goal for every child, but navigating the road to get there can be a little bumpy! Encouraging children to try new foods can seem like an uphill battle.
Why do I need to encourage my child to try new foods? They seem happy enough eating the same things
Most children will have a few ‘go-to’ foods that they love (in fact many adults do too!) but limiting the foods that we eat means that we limit the nutrients, the tastes, and the textures that we experience. As children grow, they need a wide range of different nutrients to develop to their full potential. Enjoying a variety of different foods is also a great social skill which helps children to spend time with their friends, at nursery or when they are older, at school, without the worry.
Some top tips for trying out some new foods:
- Role model – children love feeling ‘grown-up’ and doing what mummy, daddy, or perhaps their older siblings do. Add a new food to the whole family’s plates and often children will automatically try if they see everyone else doing the same. Avoid any negative comments about food around young children – they remember if daddy says ‘ but I don’t like broccoli’!
- Keep trying – often children say they don’t like a particular food (or show you they don’t by refusing to eat it) the first few times they try it. Don’t give up – it can take up to 10 exposures to a food before it is accepted, particularly if a food is perhaps more bitter, sour, or unusual than food that they are used to.
- Present the food in a new way – if your child doesn’t enjoy cooked carrots, why not offer them raw with a dip? Or if they refuse ‘bits’ in a Bolognese, try blending down the sauce to keep all the goodness.
- Offer a range of food on the plate – add some favourite foods alongside other new, or less well-liked foods. Give your child the choice of what to eat, but encourage them to pick up, smell, or even lick a new food! It’s all about getting familiar with new tastes and textures without feeling the pressure to eat them.
- ‘Big up’ your food – parents and older siblings telling a child how much they love ‘x’ food can have a real impact on whether a child will try it or not. Positive statements about food before, during, or after a meal can affect how a child views that food at the time, or in the future.
- Have a lunch date – children love to socialize with their friends and eating together at nursery has a positive impact on the foods that children will eat. Try and mirror the same peer effect at home by inviting friends round for lunch or tea. Food always looks better on someone else’s plate and could encourage your child to try.
- Get involved – children love to be part of an activity. Why not include your child in any meal preparation where you can? Cooking can start at any age, and it doesn’t just have to be baking cakes or cookies. Chopping soft fruits or vegetables, spreading a topping on a piece of toast, or mixing a tomato sauce are all easy jobs your child can help with. It might be a little messy but the benefits far outweigh the extra clearing up time!
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