It can take toddlers 10-14 times of tasting a new food before they’ll like it.

Everyone knows this, right? And it can take picky eaters even longer.

Getting to the magic number can be a real challenge. That’s why most parents give up on a new food after serving it 4 times.

So here’s the question: If it’s pretty much guaranteed that your child won’t like a new food until the 10th time he has tasted it, why would he eat the food on tries 1, 2, 3, 4…?

Kids won’t eat food they don’t like.So this is straight math/logic.

  • Taste 1: Food rejected. Don’t like. Won’t eat it.
  • Taste 2: Food rejected. Don’t like. Won’t eat it.
  • Taste 3: Food rejected. Don’t like. Won’t eat it.
  • Taste 4: Food rejected. Don’t like. Won’t eat it.
  • Parent gives up.

Expecting kids to eat a food during the phase where they’re just getting used to it is crazy. And the crazy is on us.

Mixing up tasting and eating is the problem.

During the “getting used to it” phase, kids should only be asked to taste a new food. One bite. One tiny bite. With NO expectation that they’ll eat it.

In the research that investigates how long it takes before kids will accept new foods, they rarely (if ever) ask the children to EAT the food. They simply give them a pea-sized sample to taste. And that’s what parents have to do.

Say, “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it,” or the modern equivalent, “Just take a ‘no thank you bite'” and you’ll be dead in the water.

“If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it,” sets up the expectation that your child will have to eat it if he likes it. This is implied pressure and it makes reluctant kids reject the new food even before they’ve tasted it.

I know this doesn’t make sense to parents, who think “Kids will want to eat food they like,” but it doesn’t work that way. Kids have lots of reasons for refusing food. Making your life miserable is one of them!

And a “No thank you bite” just primes kids to politely say “no thank you” when they reject the food. In fact, it primes them to think, “No thank you” before they even take that bite.

The problem is that we don’t know which taste will be the magic taste. Is it taste #5, taste #8, or taste #42?

Some kids like a new food earlier than other kids. And some foods are easier to like than others. But since you can’t know which tasting attempt will produce the winner, the only thing you can do is continue to offer tastes.

And the only way to offer tastes without making yourself crazy is to completely separate tasting from eating.

In other words, unless you have already grown a good taster, never push the issue of eating a new food. Otherwise you’ll end up in a control struggle. And you’ll probably end up throwing out a lot of food.

  • Always put something on the table you can reasonably expect your child to eat.
  • Offer tastes of food on a separate plate if your child is overly protective and scared.
  • Find opportunities away from the table to encourage exploration: At the grocery store, when you’re cooking, when you’re eating, when you’re at the park!

When parents lower their expectations around new foods, kids do better.

Learning to taste new food is a skill children have to learn. For more on this topic read Unleash Your Toddler’s Inner Food Critic and Nix the Negativity.

~Changing the conversation from Nutrition to Habits.~