Introducing a new food can be daunting. Take this common scenario for example: you want your toddler eating more vegetables so you put some peas on his dinner plate. You then plead with him to just eat a bite. He finally does and then spits the peas out. You try to get him to eat some again, desperate to get the vegetables in him. This turns into a power struggle complete with screaming and tears until you finally give up. Chances are you won't present peas for a while, if ever again. However, research shows us that continued exposures to a new food do increase rates of consumption. Therefore, it is important to continue to expose a child. So, how do you present a new food and avoid the battle? Extremely gradually. Here are some steps to try:
1. Put the new food on your plate and model trying it. It is common that a child's first experience with a food is the first time they even see it. Wouldn't you be wary trying something if you've never even seen it before? Making mealtime a family affair is crucial. Talk about how the food looks, tastes, feels in your mouth, and so on.
2. Put the food out in a bowl and model serving yourself. Encourage your child to serve the food onto his plate as well. Do not put the pressure of eating on him - simply praise any new interactions with the food.
3. Encourage your child to explore the food with all the senses before even talking about consuming it. Look at it, touch it, smell it.
4. Take baby steps when it comes to tasting and consuming the food. Don't do too much in one exposure. Start with kissing it, putting the food to the teeth and tongue, and then eventually baby bites. Don't forget to praise any new interaction with the food! Make the presence of the food as positive of an experience as possible!
Stay tuned as this series about introducing foods continues!