Imagine walking into your favorite restaurant and your waiter who you always have every time you go in brings you a steaming hot dish of octopus. You’ve never tried octopus before because you’ve never felt that way inclined, and as you stare at the texture and the colour of the octopus on your plate, the last thing that your taste buds want to do is taste it. If you feel that way as a grown adult, how do you think children feel when they are facing unfamiliar foods?
Children are creatures of habit. The reason they will eat blueberries one day but not the next and they will eat crackers always is because crackers don’t change. Crackers remain square and salty or cheesy, they always stay crunchy and they always stay predictable. Blueberries come in all different sizes and some are sweet but some are sour. It’s no wonder that children get confused when it comes to food, and you end up with an eater who chooses safe foods and not the Mexican spaghetti you spent hours slaving over. It’s hard for parents to accept that their children won’t try new foods, but here are some tips to help your children to do that.
- Let your children choose. If your children are at the age where they can choose their foods verbally, let them have a say in the conversation when you are doing your meal planning. If they are toddlers, then you just need to ensure that you are introducing new flavors or textures one at a time alongside a safe food. Allowing them to choose some foods at the grocery store with some guidance, or offering them to try a food that you’re cooking for yourself is a great way to ensure that they feel safe and secure while they’re trying something so new and unfamiliar.
- Acknowledge their courage rather than the eating. Most parents will praise the child for eating something new, and that’s OK, but consider your wording. Instead of talking about the food they have just eaten, talk about how brave they have been to try it. So, if you want to boost your child’s confidence and increase the likelihood of them being more adventurous, overpraise their actions and not what they have eaten.
- Relax. This is actually the hardest thing to do when you have a picky eater. You’re so worried that they’re not going to get enough nutrients and they’re going to go hungry that the last thing that you want to do is relax at the table. In fact you’re so not relaxed they end up being a full blown fight. Instead of referring to your child as a picky eater or somebody who’s a lost cause when it comes to new flavors, relax and let them try what they want to try and don’t worry about it. Children are naturally intuitive with their eating and their drinking and they know what they can and cannot handle. If your child is hungry, let them eat the food they find familiar and force them to eat the food that they don’t.