Next time you want your picky eater to branch out and taste something new, try something radical.
Don’t ask your child to eat the food. No matter what. Not even if your tot seems to like what he’s tasted.
- Simply offer your child a pea-size taste of the new food.
- Ask him to tell you what he thinks.
- Move on.
I know you want to teach your toddler to eat healthy foods. Sometimes, though, parents scare kids off.
- “Try it. If you don’t like it you don’t have to eat it.” Translation?
- “If you do like it, you are going to have to eat it.”
Trying new foods shouldn’t mean having to eat them too.
It takes a mental mindshift to create a safe zone for toddlers to try new foods. After all, the ultimate goal is actual food consumption. But that’s down the road.
Some kids don’t want to eat what they’ve tasted even when they like it. (They’re in a control struggle, they want to razz you, they’re not in the mood.)
Some kids don’t even want to swallow something they’ve tasted even when they like it. These kids prefer to spit. Read Why Some Kids Should Spit.
It’s hard to believe, but asking kids to eat new foods is a sublte form of pressure. And lots of kids rebel.
Research shows that pressuring kids to eat doesn’t work.
When parents pressure kids to eat more they end up eating less.
In one recent study, researchers found that children whose mothers pressured them to eat fruits and vegetables at age 1 ate fewer fruits and vegetables at age 2. Even when pressure seemed to work at first, it produced only short-term gains. By age 2, pressure ultimately failed.
Admittedly, the researchers in this study were examining stronger kinds of pressure such as making children clean their plates and trying to get kids to eat even when they say they’re not hungry. Still, even moderate pressure can backfire if your toddler is extremely resistant to trying new foods.
Remember, pressure comes in many guises and, like beauty, is always in the eyes of the beholder.
When researchers evaluate how to transform disliking into liking they ask children to taste but not to eat.
In a school-based study in Louisiana, for instance, elementary school children were asked to taste and rate 4 fruits twice a week for 4 weeks. Next, they were asked to taste and rate 4 vegetables twice a week for 4 weeks. The kids were allowed to spit, to swallow or not to taste at all. No one was asked to eat a thing.
All the kids—even those who started the program disliking the fruits and vegetables—improved their liking for all items after 8 weeks (and some quite a bit sooner than that).
You can achieve the same results. Just start acting like a researcher and expose your tot to plenty of tastings. He’ll come around to eating after awhile.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~
Lakkakula, A., J. Geaghan, W.-P. Wong, M. Zanovec, S. Pierce, and G. Tuuri. 2011. “A Cafeteria-Based Tasting Program Increased Liking of Fruits and Vegetables By Lower, Middle and Upper Elementary School-Age Children.” Appetite 57: 299-302
Gregory, J. E., S. J. Paxton, and A. M. Brozovic. 2011. “Maternal Feeding Practices Predict Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Young Children. Results of a 12-Month Longitudinal Study.” Appetite 57: 167-72.