Expanding Your Child’s Picky Palate

Being a mom of two and an aunt of four, I have come across a few tricks over the years to help inspire young ones to try new foods. As kids grow, they become more opinionated and start asserting their independence. This can lead to a very picky eater, but not always because they do not like a new food, it’s because they can say they don’t. Big difference.

In our house we adopted the One Bite Rule. Baby was around 4 years old and entering into the “won’t eat anything but chicken nuggets or mac n cheese” phase. She was old enough to understand that if she took one bite of a new dish and didn’t like it, she did not have to eat it. Unlike when I was a kid, choking down eating green peas. This works best on occasions when the food is not too well known. I have yet to make this rule stick for broccoli.

Now for the younger sect, I have an alternate approach. I don’t offer the new food. No, I don’t starve my kids at dinnertime. I simply fill their plates with the items of the meal they already eat, and only serve the new food to DH and myself. Kids are very curious. They want to know why you have something different. It makes them want to try it on their own. Again, asserting their independence by asking you to try the food, instead of the opposite. This works well with interesting looking foods like eggrolls or wontons.

One of my favorite ideas is to put the food on a stick. Using blunt skewers for ingredients makes the food more fun to eat. There are limitless combinations of kabobs you can create using meat, vegetables, cheese and fruit. In a previous cooking school class, Baby learned how to skewer honeydew melon, fresh mozzarella, and then wrap the items with prosciutto. Who knew my five year old would end up loving prosciutto? Certainly my wallet didn’t.

This brings me to my last suggestion. Get your children involved in the meal time process itself. If your child aids in making the food, they will feel rewarded with the end result, especially when it’s a fun experience along the way. This works well with a multi-step dish like lasagna or baked ziti. Even if your child is too young to actually help cook, they can pour ingredients, assist in the meal plan creation or even play waiter. Including your child’s point of view at meal time will make it a more appealing event for everyone.

I am sure there are many more ways to challenge a picky eater to try new foods. Do you have a favorite to share?

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