It’s a struggle as old as parenting itself. Trying to get your children to try new foods can be frustrating and a little infuriating. You want your kids to have adventurous palates, and you want their diets to be varied and healthy. What to do, then, when your kids steadfastly refuse new foods and rely on macaroni and cheese for sustenance?

child denying food from mom

  • Remain calm.You might feel frustrated when your little one refuses a bite of something you’ve painstakingly prepared and you feel confident they’ll love, if they would just give it a chance. Stay relaxed and don’t turn on the pressure.
  • Offer a bite of a new food at the start of a meal, when your child is most hungry. It will help even more if you don’t allow snacks within a few hours of dinnertime, as your kids will be more interested in taking a bite of something new if they are really ready to eat.
  • Trying is more important than finishing. Don’t insist that your kids eat every bite of a new food. The most important thing is that they try a new food to begin with. They might not want a second bite, but they opened themselves up to a new experience.  Make a habit out of new foods. Every few days, introduce a new fruit to the fruit bowl or a new side dish at dinner. Getting used to changing things up will help your children to become less fearful of new foods.
  • Model enthusiasm. If you’re adventurous about trying new foods, making up new recipes, or ordering takeout from a spot you normally wouldn’t frequent, your children will get the message that trying new things can be fun.
  • Take them to the store. As you’re browsing the produce section, ask them to choose something they’ve never eaten before that they’ll try at home. We know a preschooler who thought that kumquats were “cute”, put them into his mother’s grocery cart, and now asks for them everyday.
  • Make things a little exciting. Kids love to feel like an evening is special, so consider setting the table with a little extra decoration, cutting a new food into a fancy shape, or turning on some fun music. If the experience is special they may be more inclined to eat.
  • Stay patient. Studies have shown that kids need to try a new food 7 to 15 times before they decide to accept it as a usual part of their diet. Just keep trying and eventually, your kids will accept more than they’ll reject.

What tactics have you tried to get your kids to eat more varied foods? Share your tips for us in the comments section!