This article discusses 3 ways to help your picky eater try new food all on their own, without forcing them to take a bite.
If you’re like the parents I meet in my Eating with Ease program, you are looking for ways to help your picky eater try new food and are constantly resisting the urge to ask them to just take a bite.
Just today one mom in the program said to me “I just want to pop a piece of corn in his mouth!” Her son used to eat corn and she was certain that he would like it.
Pressure to eat can work for some children in the moment, but requiring picky eaters to eat or take a bite of a new food usually doesn’t lead to sustained change in eating habits. In fact, pressure can backfire and make picky eating worse.
Instead of pressuring picky eaters who aren’t ready to eat a new food yet, try encouraging them to engage with food in a different way.
Food engagements, or interactions, can prepare picky eaters to try new foods. This is because kids often need to meet and interact with new foods many, many times before they feel ready to eat them.
Therefore, instead of requiring tastes, it can be more productive to encourage your picky eater to have fun interactions with food without them needing to eat or take a bite. These simple food engagements can increase their comfort with the food, bringing them closer to eating on their own terms.
3 Ways To Help Your Picky Eater Try New Food (Without Forcing Them to Take a Bite!)
Use these 3 prompts to help your child get closer to trying a new food without having to take a bite.
1. What does the food look like?
Discuss its shape, size, and color. Does it look like anything familiar?
2. What does the food feel like?
Explore its texture and weight. Is it hard? Wet? Smooth? Light? Heavy?
3. What does the food smell like?
If your child is ready they can see what the food smells like.
Does it smell like anything they’ve smelled before? Maybe it smells sweet or fruity. Maybe it has a big smell or no smell at all.
When to Use Food Interactions with Your Picky Eater
You have a few options when trying these non-pressuring food interactions at mealtimes.
- The whole family can participate. You can all interact with the same food or you can make your own selections of foods to interact with.
- The whole family can participate either by using the same interaction or choosing their own interactions.
- Your child can select a food they want to interact with. At first they will likely select a preferred food. Over time you can encourage them to interact with a novel food.
- You can select a “focus food” that your child is working towards learning to like.
You can introduce new foods – on their own or alongside preferred foods and even other objects – outside of mealtimes during play. Have discussions about all of the things your child notices about the foods and objects. You can participate alongside younger children or have older children conduct experiments and keep a log of their observations.
At Random Times
Try these interactions as the situation arises throughout your day, maybe while you’re at the grocery store or while making dinner.
You don’t have to force your child to take a bite of a new food. There are other ways to help your picky eater try new food. Help them to have fun interactions with food that don’t involve eating, but still give them information and confidence that will help them eat new foods when they are ready.
If you’re looking for a more thorough game plan with ways to help your picky eater try new foods, grab my free guide with 5 tips. This guide takes you through everything from your mindset to making mealtimes easier and more pleasant.