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Encouraging children to try new foods

It can be stressful when your child refuses to try new foods, and it can turn mealtimes into something you dread. Here are a few gentle ways to encourage children to try new foods. 

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If your child is a fussy eater, you’ll know all too well how frustrating and tiring it is trying to get them to try new things. Getting to a place where they eat a wide variety of foods and you’re happy with what they eat takes a lot of patience, positivity, and hard work. Here are a few ideas we’ve seen parents have success with. 

Get the kids involved

Kids can help you make food from a very young age, even if they’re just banging a whisk against their highchair tray! Allowing children to take part in cooking can make them feel proud of what they make, especially if it’s a meal for the whole family, and this can encourage them to try what they’ve made.  

Choose a simple recipe and let them fill measuring jugs, stir together ingredients and sprinkle seasonings with your assistance as needed. It will take longer than when you’re cooking on your own, but it’s a great thing for kids to get involved in. It also teaches them vital life skills, helps with real world numeracy, and makes for fantastic bonding time as you work together as a team.  

Have fun with it  

They say we eat with our eyes first, and it can be especially true for children. Make meals visually appealing by serving brightly coloured foods in kid-friendly shapes. An example is to serve homemade pancakes as different animals, using lots of colourful fruit – use halved strawberries to make ears or blueberries to make eyes. You can also use small, shaped food cutters to serve up heart or star shaped slices of apple or banana.  

Always be positive

It’s tempting to get cross when children refuse to try new foods, but that’s not going to get you anywhere. We know it’s frustrating, but shouting or arguing with them will only make things worse. 

Take a deep breath and remember to be positive. Praise your child for trying, no matter how little they try of a new food.

Show them how it’s done  

Do your children see healthier foods as novelties they’re not sure how to deal with? This might be because they don’t see them being eaten much, so be sure to lead by example. Children are often more willing to try new foods if they can see others eating them too, so make sure you’re also eating what you want them to eat.  

Don’t force it  

Forcing your child to finish what’s on their plate is another approach that’ll only make things worse, and it’ll also lead to difficulties in their relationship with food as they grow older. Serve your child new foods alongside ones they’re happy to eat, eat as a family and don’t pressure them to eat. A low-pressure environment makes it much more likely they’ll try something new in their own time.  

Remember that some picky eating is normal for children, but if you’re worried about your child’s restrictive eating habits, it might be worth chatting to your GP to get support.

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