“Please. Just take one bite. One little bite.”
How many times have you uttered those words? How many times were you met with a “No!”? The more you beg, the more your child refuses. Does this scenario sound familiar?
Taking a bite is actually a much bigger demand than we may realize. Imagine somebody sitting in front of you with a food that doesn’t look at all appetizing, begging you to just take a bite. You likely wouldn’t want to do it.
Here are two tips for what to do instead:
1. Offer choices about how to try a new food: Do you want to touch it or try a lick of it? This still gives your child control of the situation but also doesn’t allow for a “No!” answer.
Be specific with your choices. Instead of open ended questions (“what do you want to try?”) give two very specific choices (“Do you want to try the turkey or cheese next?”)
2. Don’t wait for a bite before you praise your child: It’s easy to get stuck on wanting to see your child take a bite and swallow food. However, this is a big ask and can bring a lot of pressure into mealtime. If you allow an easier interaction such as touching or smelling a new food, you’ll be able to reward your child doing something new and keep mealtime happy! In a future post, we’ll talk about how to work your way up to bites.
Here are some other examples of choices you can provide to give your child control while still encouraging interactions with food:
Children benefit from being involved in the mealtime process in various ways. Participating in grocery store trips is a great way to get your children involved in the process. Let's face it though, grocery store trips with children aren't always the most pleasant. Here's something to get them more involved while also keeping them busy so you can get your shopping done without added stress. Download this scavenger hunt and encourage your children to circle the foods they see. You can get creative and have them look for foods that are made out of the foods pictured, as well. For example, instead of just sticking to the produce section, have them look at pictures on juices and yogurts to look for the items on their list.
It’s all over Google and Pinterest: “Smart Ways to Sneak Vegetables in Your Child’s Food,” “Foolproof Ways to Sneak Veggies into Kids Food,” “100+ Hidden Veggie Recipes,” “15 Foods You Can Sneak Vegetables into.” Recipes are named for this practice: “Sneaky Pasta Sauce,” “Hidden Veggie Sloppy Joes,” “Hidden Veggie Smoothie.” There are even cookbooks devoted to successfully hiding vegetables in kid’s food. It’s one of the most common pieces of advice parents give each other when commiserating about picky eaters who refuse to eat vegetables. However, this common practice of sneaking foods is problematic. Here are three reasons why:
Instead of sneaking foods into your child’s food, here are some things you can do:
Try these tips to make trying healthy foods fun and enjoyable for both you and your child!
My daughter won't eat bell peppers and we cook with them a bit, so I wanted to start working on exposing her to them more. Today we did this fun project - mini bell pepper stamping with edible paint.
She likes mayo so we just added some food coloring to a little bit of mayo to make a few colors of paint. You could also use sour cream or just different condiments (ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, ranch, etc.). Then, I cut off the tops of the peppers, gave her some paper and she was set!
She loved making art - we talked about the different shapes and mixed colors to see what we could come up with. (We had a lot of, "Oh! Cool! Brown again!" But, hey, whatever works!)
As we were stamping, something really neat happened. Without me even suggesting it, my daughter said "I want to lick the red mayo off of it!" So, I cut up some rings of pepper and she dipped them in the different colors and licked the mayo. Then, she took little nibbles and realized that maybe she does like peppers with colorful mayo on them. She ended up eating a few of the peppers!
This is exactly the purpose of this kind of activity - a no pressure way to teach a child about ways to try new foods!
Yes, those words came out of my 3 year old this morning! My daughter has been helping me make smoothies some mornings. My goals have been to expose her to different fruits and vegetables, let her have control about what she puts in her smoothies, and teach her some self-help skills. Typically, I just put out a bunch of ingredients and she puts them together how she pleases. She loves being able to say that she made it for the family. I always include some greens but today we were all out and I happened to catch this adorable moment on video!
This is an example of why positive associations are so crucial! She would've never wanted to eat the greens plain, but loves to put it in the smoothie and watch it blend in with the berries. This is a method I use to teach her to turn things she might not like into something she will by blending flavors.
Did you ever think you'd see those two words together? We had a lot of fun with this simple broccoli activity! In a previous post on mealtime as a sensory experience, I mentioned using condiments to enhance the taste of foods. Here's an example of how it can be done to encourage children to explore different tastes and taste combinations.
Broccoli Painting with Condiments
Broccoli (your paintbrush): I steamed a bag of frozen but use whatever style you like
Condiments (your paint): I just used what I found in my fridge - ketchup, mustard, sour cream, and soy sauce. I was looking for a variety of colors
Plates (your paint palette)
Paper (your canvas)
This is really an open ended activity. I explained to the children and modeled how they can use the broccoli as the paintbrush and we talked about the colors of "paint." I gave them the option to dip a finger into the different condiments to see how they tasted before we began. They were happy to do that and we talked about the different tastes and which ones they thought might taste best with broccoli.
Then, we just had at it, stamping and painting (and eating) away. I encouraged smelling and licking the broccoli and they ended up taking the next step and devouring each piece after painting with it.
We mixed colors and flavors, talked about what tasted good together and what didn't, and created some neat art that they were pretty proud of!
Did you try this activity? Have questions or feedback? Please feel free to comment below!