When is variety not variety?  When the foods you feed your kids are all the same.

Most parents think they feed their child a varied diet but are you really?  While you are probably providing different foods throughout the day, consider whether the items you provide are similar in taste, texture or appearance.

If you are having trouble introducing your child to new foods, this might be one of the reasons.

This turned out to be the case last week at my seminar Overcoming Resistance to New Foods.  One mother thought she was feeding her child a varied diet.  Upon closer examination, however, she realized that most of the foods her child eats over the course of a day all taste basically the same.  They are sweet: cereal, yogurt, even peanut butter & jelly.

Other children eat a lot of crunchy foods: toast, Goldfish crackers, chicken nuggets.

Others like it saucy.

If you are having trouble introducing your child to new foods, evaluate how much true variety she experiences during the day, and over a couple of days.  Then, if you find your child is eating similar tastes or textures most of the time, start mixing it up.

You don’t have to introduce new foods to mix it up.  In fact, I highly recommend that you start by switching up the foods that you child already likes.  Don’t add anything new until the pattern of variety is in place.  Too much change and everything could backfire.

Introduce variety in two ways:

  • Give your child different foods during the day.  For example, if your child likes cheese, don’t give it to him more than once a day. (The only exception I would make is for milk.)
  • Make sure you give your child different foods for the same meal or snack over a couple of days.  So if you gave your child yogurt for snack yesterday, give her something different for snack today.

Why is variety so important?  Here are three ways it works its wonder:

  • When your child gets used to the idea that different foods are eaten on different days, or at different times, he will more willingly accept not having his favorite, especially if he you tell him he can have that item tomorrow.  The idea of difference opens the door to new foods.
  • Variety keeps your child exposed to different tastes, textures, and appearances.
  • Variety makes new seem less remarkable.  Novel foods just don’t stand out that much when difference is the order of the day.  In contrast, new items seem strange, odd and definitely something to be avoided when they appear in an otherwise unwavering menu.

Finally, we’re not just talking about introducing variety at dinner.  There are at least 5-6 eating opportunities in a typical day.  Mix them all up.  The more you do, the more success you’ll have.

Remember, it’s not so much what you feed, as what you teach, that matters.