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If a toddler’s first encounter with cooked peas results in the all the peas remaining on the plate, this doesn’t mean that peas should be permanently off the menu. Research shows that a child may need to be exposed to a food 10 times or more before accepting them. Parents also should not remove healthy foods, like broccoli or green beans, from a child’s diet because they themselves don’t like them. Children will often adapt to the foods made available to them.
Young children have more taste buds than adults, so foods can taste stronger to them. This can sometimes seem to narrow their food preferences. Parents may think, “My child only eats chicken nuggets and fries,” or “She hates vegetables.” Though it’s true that toddlers often demonstrate "picky eating," parents should not give up on encouraging them to try and accept new foods.
Hang in there. As a teenager, you will not be able to keep ENOUGH food in the house!
Recognize that it is your responsibility as a parent to prepare and serve the food to your child and your child's responsibility as to how much he/she eats. Also realize that it can take anywhere from 10-20 exposures to a new food before developing a palate. After 3 failed attempts at introducing a new food take a break and try again in a few days/weeks. Encourage your child to enjoy a wide variety of foods, colors, textures and flavors by modeling eating behavior and leading by example. Explore the grocery store or local market together to select new foods. Serve small, bite-size portions of a new food with familiar foods at the meal. Encourage and praise rather than bribe. Recognize age-appropriate portion size of foods that are being served. Keep family mealtime positive. Young children often don't like foods touching each other so try to use divided plates/bowls to separate different foods.
The best way to get your children to try new foods is to offer a variety of healthy foods early on so they are accustomed to trying new foods and develop a varied palate. In order to avoid food battles, it's best to offer the food but not force or bribe your child to eat it. You may need to offer it many times before the child tries it. Some experts say this can be as much as 15 times before the child is familiar enough with the food to want to try it.
Sometimes my 3 year old won't try something as yummy as a donut because it's not something I've offered to him before and he does not think it will taste good. Obviously that is not a food I'll keep trying to get him to taste. But by offering healthy foods on several occasions and letting your toddler get used to the idea of trying something new, you can be successful.
Just remember this simple rule: it's the parents' job to offer healthy foods and it is the child's job to choose if he'll eat it and how much of it he'll eat. This can help you avoid food battles that can become more about "power" struggles than nutrition.
The American Academy of Pediatrics conducted a study of toddler age children that concluded the average toddler may need to see a new food on their plate at least 10 times before they will eat it!
Here are some tips for introducing new foods:
- Always let her know what she is eating. At the beginning of each meal, point at each item on her plate and tell her what it is. The more she hears about it, the more familiar it becomes.
- Offer new foods first and at times when she is most hungry. When children are hungry or first sit down to a meal, they will often eat without thinking about what they are eating.
- Don't give up. Try very small portions of new foods, so you can throw them out without feeling guilty about wasting food and be patient -- 10 times can seem like a long time.
- Encourage your child to "try it." Do not force her to eat, but ask her several times during a meal to "try" the new food. Show her how you "try it" too -- make it look like fun to try new foods!
This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.