How to Get Small Children to Eat Different Food for Dinner
Preschoolers are sometimes picky eaters, going on food jags and eating the same few foods over and over again. They may only like foods that are certain colors or textures. While this is normal and you shouldn't force your child to eat any particular food, you can make it more likely that your children will eat new foods with a few simple strategies.
Children may refuse to eat new foods out of a desire for control over some part of their lives. Give your child a limited number of options for each meal or snack, and let him choose which foods and how much of them he wants to serve himself and eat. These options should include both familiar foods and a new food or two so that he gets exposed to new foods, since children are more likely to try new foods if they are used to seeing them. If you are trying to get your child to eat more fruits and vegetables, use foods from these food groups for snacks instead of foods like crackers and cheese, perhaps offering your child a few different vegetables with a dip he likes. Serving dishes that can be assembled by the diner can help with this. Try dishes like tacos, salads, fajitas and make-your-own pizzas, where each person can choose the components he wants.
Food Selection and Preparation
Allow your child to choose new foods to try at the grocery store. Take her to the produce department and ask her to pick a new fruit or vegetable each week to get her more involved in deciding what she is going to eat. Let her help you prepare meals by giving her age-appropriate tasks, such as tearing lettuce or dumping premeasured ingredients into a mixing bowl. If you have a garden, let your child grow vegetables from seeds. Children will then be more familiar with how the food looks and feels and potentially more likely to try the food. If you don't want your child to eat a particular food, don't bring it into your home.
Model Healthy Eating
Children learn best by example, so eat the foods you would like to see them try and ensure that they see you trying new foods and liking them. Make new recipes for dinner from time to time, perhaps letting your child choose between a couple different options. Sometimes, just making a familiar food in different ways can get children used to trying new foods. Instead of serving chicken nuggets purchased from the grocery store, make a healthier, baked version from a recipe. If this goes well, try serving chicken cooked in another way, perhaps on skewers with a peanut dipping sauce, gradually moving away from the foods you don't like to the foods you would like your child to eat. Serve the same foods to everyone in the family, as it may prompt everyone to eat healthier.
Serve your child meals and snacks at set times, and don't let your child snack or fill up on juice or milk near mealtimes. Offer new foods when your child is hungry, serving the new food first. Otherwise, your child may fill up on foods he has tried before and avoid sampling the new food. Try serving your child an appetizer plate of cut-up fruit or vegetables while you are preparing dinner, including a new fruit or vegetable along with some that he already enjoys. Instead of putting all of the food on the table at once, try serving it in courses as in a restaurant, starting with the foods you would like your child to eat the most. Bring out the salad, then the main dish and then the dessert, which should be fruit most of the time.
Your child may not try new foods the first time you offer them or even the second. It can take as many as 12 tries for a child to taste a new food. If a child doesn't like a food prepared a certain way, try preparing it a different way or changing the presentation. If your child doesn't like plain, cooked broccoli, see if he likes it with cheese sauce or raw with ranch dressing. Kids sometimes like their food cut into shapes or arranged to look like a picture. One option is to make faces or flowers using different fruits or vegetables.
Share this article