Almost all children go through food phases of being picky eaters: they only want pasta for every meal and nothing else, or they may only eat a certain color of food (white/yellow foods) for a month. While food jags are common, there are some things you can do to help expand your picky eater’s diet.
Tips to Increase Food Variety
It’s a numbers game – It can take a child 15-20 tries of a new food before they will like it or accept it. Make a list of foods with your child to consider trying or family staples in your house your child may not be fond of and start a tally! After 20 tries, you child can make a firm decision on whether to accept the food or not.
Variety is the spice of life – Present food in a variety of forms. Your child may not like a baked sweet potato, but a baked sweet potato fry might sound good. Try foods raw (if able to be consumed raw), baked, mashed, fried or provide a dip for more appeal.
Make food fun – There are a few ways to “make food fun.” If your child is able to help with grocery shopping or preparation they will be more inclined to try a new food. Ask for meal ideas and try to incorporate it into the weekly plan.
Roll the dice – Another way to get a picky eater to try new foods is by having them “roll the dice.” Whatever number is rolled is the number of new foods to try that day/week/month or whatever is determined. I suggest doing this on a weekly or monthly basis to keep your child involved and excited about the experiment.
Eat the rainbow – Rainbows are fun to draw and can provide color to everyone’s life! Make it a goal to have a minimum of three to four colors of the rainbow on a daily basis. This helps provide a variety of nutrients from different fruits and vegetables. Have your child draw the rainbow with the colors consumed to see their progress. Try to see if you can get all six colors in each day!
Just remember that the more your child is involved throughout the process of introducing new foods, the greater the success. Food phases are common, but providing two or three foods you know your child will eat and at least one new food will help expand your child’s palate.
You can also try additional tips to help kids explore new foods and achieve energy balance.
This article was written by Ellen Sviland, MS, RD, CNSD, LD, a pediatric dietitian from Washington, DC. She balances her daily hospital work life with cooking (her favorite is baking desserts) and with a part-time job counseling patients.
Add some variety to your family meals with these resources: