‘No! Yuck! Gross!'
If you've been around children during meal time, you've probably heard them express these negative sentiments when presented with unfamiliar foods.
At Red Rabbit, we've been creating our made from scratch meals and serving them to kids for over 10 years, so we've come across our fair share of cautious eaters.
Luckily, we know a thing or two about encouraging children to try new foods – and enjoy them!
Read on for some useful tips to transform “choosy” eaters into adventurous ones. Or download our Choosy Eaters worksheet to share with your network.
- Try new foods when children are rested and/or in good moods. A happy child is more likely to say 'yes' than 'yuck.'
- Minimize distractions during meal times. Put away toys, games and any other items that may interrupt meal time so children can focus for the duration of the meal.
- Discuss the food’s color, shape and texture. Exploring and understanding a new food will give a tentative child the confidence to try it.
- "Don't Yuck My Yum." Encourage children to use descriptive language when talking about foods. Explain that everybody likes different foods and flavors, and when we say "yuck!" it can discourage others from trying. Motivate children to be specific when they do not like an item by asking questions like "Which part didn't you like? Was it the flavor or the texture? Was there any part you did like?"
- Initiate a "food-centric" discussion. Ask kids how they would prepare a particular dish and discuss their favorite part of the meal. If adults are actively focused on food and the meal, children will be too.
- Avoid coaxing children into trying new foods with the promise of dessert afterwards. When highlighting the new food as the special treat, little ones will feel more excited to eat it.
- Repetition is key. It can take 8-10 exposures to a new food before children feel fully comfortable. Be patient and encourage children again and again.
Tips For "Choosy" Eaters At Home
- When shopping for ingredients, allowing kids to help choose fruits, vegetables and whole grains gets them in on the act from the start. At home, including children in meal preparation reinforces choices made at the grocery store. Mixing, grating and stirring foods empowers kids to be involved in their food choices.
- Offer choices rather than asking yes or no questions. Instead of, “Do you want carrots for dinner?” try, “Do you prefer carrots or broccoli for dinner?”
- Offer one meal for the whole family. Eating the same foods together encourages discussion and allows us to lead by example.
Best Practices For Lunchtime At School
- Implement a lunchtime routine. Try including a daily song or hand washing break before meal time. Children respond well to routine and trying a new food can easily become a fun activity the children look forward to.
- Schedule recess before lunch. Children restless for a break may be distracted and less open to trying new things. Scheduling lunch after recess allows children to come back to the classroom with more focus. Plus, hungry children are much more likely to try new foods.
- Eat in a family style setting. Encourage teachers to sit and eat with children. Eating the same foods together encourages discussion and allows us to lead by example. When children see adults enjoying new foods, it sparks their curiosity to try something new.
If you notice a child with extreme avoidance to a food, it’s always best to contact a parent or caregiver to find a solution.
Want to share these tips with a friend or parent?