Mealtimes can be stressful when you have a child that does not like to try new foods. Not wanting to try new foods is very common in children, but there are things you can try to help them be more adventurous. Here are our tips on how to help your fussy eater try new foods.
Remember, ‘parents provide, children decide’. Offer them new foods and it is simply up to your child whether they eat any at all. Pressuring a child to eat could make them more hesitant to try new foods and make them fussier, particularly if they feel challenged.
What works best is creating a calm, pressure and distraction free eating environment.
Here’s how to encourage your fussy eater to try new foods, without pressuring them:
- Include the new food along with other healthy options they do like. At meal or snack time, provide your child with an opportunity to try the food. Research has shown it may take 10+ times of repeated exposure to a food before a child tries it, though parents are likely to give up after 5 attempts- keep going!
- Role Model. If you eat them, your child is more likely to eat them.
- Share your meals together. As much as possible, having family meals, where everyone eats the same foods together, is important. Be sure the meal includes some options that you know they do like.
- Buffet-style serving. Offering food this way lets your child build their independence and have a sense of control over what they eat.
- Positive talk. Speak positively about the food and your child’s eating ability. Comment on the broccoli being yummy tonight, and rather than noting your child’s avoidance of a food, phrase it positively- “That’s okay, maybe you can try it next time!”
- Involve them. Involve your children in preparing and shopping for meals and choose recipes together.
Try not to:
- Use any pressure tactics to encourage eating. Bribing or coercing your child to try a new food is easy to fall into. Instead, create a pressure-free space by role modelling and showing them that it is okay to try again another day.
- Offer a new food when children are tired. If they’ve had a long day, or aren’t feeling well, wait before attempting to introduce the food.
- Give too much attention to the new food– remember, pressure-free environment. They may just help themselves!
- Make separate meals. Don’t make separate meals based on your child’s likes – this can make them fussier. Include an option they will eat and know that they will be able to wait until their next meal or snack – and they will eat if they’re hungry.