8 TOP TIPS FOR INTRODUCING NEW FOODS TO YOUR CHILD
Transforming your child into a healthy eater isn’t always smooth sailing, especially if they’re fussy. As parents, it’s easy to fall into traps of bribery or threats of no dessert to get them to finish what’s on their plate or at least take a bite.
As a mum and a nutritionist with an interest in children’s health and well being, I see the challenges of introducing new foods first hand. I want to share with you a few tips to help your child enjoy different foods without the battle.
1. START AS YOUNG AS POSSIBLE!
It’s never too late to start introducing healthy foods to your child, however starting as early as possible may be less of a challenge. Children develop their food preferences in their first year of life and exposed to a healthy diet, are more likely to enjoy these foods later in life. Start today, start now.
2. BE POSITIVE!
Automatically thinking your child is going to reject your food can set you up for failure. Don’t make a big deal about the food, remove the pressure and have a positive attitude. That goes for your taste preferences too. If you are a selective eater, chances are your child will follow suit.
3. EDUCATE YOUR CHILD!
Often we expect children to adopt lifelong healthy eating habits simply by serving up vegetables. It’s not enough! We need to educate children on the benefits of eating whole foods so that when we’re not responsible for what’s on their plate, they are more inclined to make healthy choices.
4. EXPOSURE, EXPOSURE, EXPOSURE!
It takes as many as 30 tries for a child to willingly accept a new taste. Don’t stop offering your child a food if they have rejected it the first couple of times. Please persevere. Try cooking or serving it differently. Offer it around their peers or in a different environment away from the dining table. Just don’t stop offering!
5. TEACH YOUR CHILD ABOUT ADVENTURE!
You have to be brave and adventurous when trying new things, even food. Talk about bravery. Explain the benefits of doing new things. Read books and share stories of other brave frontiers just like them.
6. UTILISE SAFE FOODS!
Introduce new foods in phases rather than completely overhauling your family’s diet in one go. Utilise your child’s ‘safe’ or favourites when serving up foreign foods. If your child love chips and carrots, keep them on the plate with a little of the new food on the side. Then slowly start replacing the hot chips for homemade roast potatoes or chicken nuggets for pieces of grilled chicken. Make changes incrementally along with your child’s favourites.
7. MAKE ONE FAMILY MEAL!
Your home is not a restaurant. You are not a head chef. Stop making different meals for each person in the house! The best way to introduce your children (and adults) to new foods is to make one family meal. If your child is a fussy eater, start by creating healthy shared meals where everyone can dish up what they want and how much of it on their plate. Remove the pressure and don’t focus on their food choices. Just remember it’s all about exposure and breaking down the fear, and enjoy that you’ve only cooked once!
8. EVERYONE HAS THEIR FAVOURITE!
“I don’t like this!”. “It’s not my favourite”. It’s not uncommon for children to think that we should serve up their favourite meal every night. It’s worth reminding them that everyone has their favourite and it’s good to share it around. Sure, they may not be eating everything they love today, but it might be someone else’s turn for their favourite dish.
Blog post written by Sarah Appleford – a bachelor-qualified nutritionist, mother, passionate foodie and founder of Nutrition For Kids. Through 1:1 consultations and workshops, Sarah’s mission is to inspire children to lead healthy, happy lives. She wants to help remove the confusion and equip parents with the tools and knowledge they need to nourish their kids with a whole food diet.