Issue 12 of Feeding Your Kids
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you would be wise to offer a child a new food 10-15 times before they might accept it, only to turn it down later again. However, offering a new vegetable plenty of times is only the first step in learning to try new food.
Food includes sensory experiences of seeing, smelling, texture and taste. To begin experimenting with food, allow your child to take a tiny amount of the new ingredient: smell, touch, put it on their plate but not eat it; put it in the mouth but not swallow it. Allow your child to see other people eating that food.
Today allow your child to experiment with new food. Here are a few ways to do that:
1. Serve something new regularly. Their expectations will be different if they are offered something “new” regularly, even if it is just in the way of preparation.
2. Offer the same food in different ways. Example: broccoli. Offer as “trees” (the whole spear of broccoli) with dipping sauce. Next time purée the broccoli for soup. Puréeing helps your child enjoy the taste without the interference of texture. Then offer as a side dish, chopped and mixed with rice.
☺ “A-ha” moment alert: Trying to introduce kale to my children, I sautéed some leafs and mixed it with risotto rice, all the while wondering how it will go down. At the table, my son moved the serving bowl in front of him, tasted one leaf and proceeded to eat all the sautéed kale out, leaving the rice.
3. Serve new food with familiar food or in a familiar way. Introducing a new ingredient in a mix of familiar ingredients takes the scary out of trying; add a new vegetable to a familiar pasta dish. If your children like chicken nuggets, make vegetable nuggets.
4. Eat the new food with your child. Children will often eat foods their favorite grown-ups eat, especially in the regular family meal or a trusted adult context.
☺ “A-ha” moment alert: My children would not eat raisins; they picked them out of cookies even. Imagine my surprise when they returned from their summer visit to grandfather and told me what they ate for breakfast: his favorite, of course, raisin bran cereal.
5. Encourage further experimenting. Does your child want to pour orange juice on cereal instead of milk? Mix ketchup into their soup? Help them not ruin a great deal of food just in case the experiment does not work but be aware: today’s experiment can turn into everybody’s favorite tomorrow!
6. Talk about the food’s qualities. Give your child an opportunity to go beyond “Yuck” and “Yum” by describing their likes and dislikes in terms of crunchy or soft, ripe or less so, dry or juicy, salty, sweet, bitter, sour or umami, spicy or bland.
If you are thinking: I can not afford to waste food, offering it on 10 different occasions just on the hope that she will accept it at the end.
Try this instead: Suspecting new food is a developmental phase. The more exposure my child has had to different foods, tastes and textures (seeing me eating it also counts) the healthier eaters they become. Tasting new food is a skill, once they learn they will know it for life.
Next we will talk about how to stop feeding the snack monster.