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How to Introduce New Food to Kids: Getting Practical

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Introduce New Food, Part 2

In Part 2 of How to Introduce New Food to Kids, I get down and dirty with some practical approaches, particularly making new food fun, and enhancing your odds at getting your child to try them. If you need to refresh your memory about what you need to know before getting started, read my first post of this series, Introducing New Foods: Parent Primer.

Your best asset in this process is the curiosity your child already holds.

He or she was born curious, and this curiosity helps him learn about the world and food. He will look for differences and be intrigued by the unexpected. Use this natural characteristic to your advantage!

Be Colorful 

Young children are learning about the colors of the rainbow, so making the foods on their plate colorful is a great tie-in.

Older children can appreciate the idea that color equals high nutritional content. Moreover, we know that eye-appeal is associated with greater satisfaction, an important piece of eating the right foods and amounts.

Bottom line: the more colorful the better!

Shape Interest  

Along with learning about colors, young kids are also learning about shapes. Pull out the cookie-cutter shapes and cut sandwiches with them.

Use kabobs to string fruit, veggies, cheese or meat cubes.

Build with food: stack tomato and mozzarella, or roll deli meat and cheese to keep food interesting. Remember, interesting equals enticing when it comes to new foods.

First Things First

Did you know that timing is everything when it comes to introducing new foods?

Kids are hungriest at the beginning of a meal, so use this time to introduce a new food.

Vary Your Veggies

Don’t get stuck in the rut of the same old same old—if you find yourself picking up the same fruits and veggies each week, you are officially in a rut!

Aim to try at least one new fruit or veggie each week until you’ve covered them all. Then use rotations to keep the exposure in place.

Vary the way you prepare foods for vegetables: try salads, roasting, or stir-frying; for fruits: try frozen, dried or grilled; or try the Dinner Bar approach, letting your child compose her own entrée.

Build Flavor

Spice it up! Don’t be afraid of fat or salt or spices—plain food can be boring, especially as kids get older.

In my house, I hear from one child she wants food to be “gourmet”—this is code for high flavor and a little fancier than usual. For example, tonight I made a pasta sauce with medley baby tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes and fresh basil. Then I topped it with chunks of fresh mozzarella.

Exactly what she was talking about! Remember, flavor is a prime motivator for eating—if it tastes (and looks) good, it’s likely to be eaten!

Pair the Old with the New

Whenever you introduce something new, use familiar territory to build a sense of security.

For example, offer an old standby like apples with something new such as mango. Cautious children may scrutinize a new food and need time to warm up, but keep the exposure high so familiarity increases.

Don’t Hide Ingredients

While this may be a popular tactic to get kids to eat, I believe in the long run this can be a dangerous practice, potentially eroding trust.

Kids almost always find out, and when they do, they often feel betrayed. If you include spinach in your smoothie, be honest about it, without overplaying it.

new food

Use Helping Hands

Research shows that kids are more invested in the foods they help make, and they are more likely to eat them. Toddlers and older kids can get involved on many levels in meal preparation.

Lay the Groundwork

Talk up the new foods on the menu for the week. This can be very helpful to a child who may be slow to adapt to new foods, or uncertain or timid with change.

Let her investigate the food—look at it, smell it and touch it—without having to eat it. This can be a powerful experience in building trust with the whole process of trying new food.

What have you found to be successful when introducing new food to your child?

Don’t forget to check out Part 3 of Introducing New Food and for the insight and program I use in my practice, check out Try New Food: Help Picky Eaters Taste, Eat & Like New Food.


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