As children our taste buds are more sensitive, and so many foods are new in flavor and texture for little ones.
They have every reason to be hesitant around new foods while they are learning and growing. However, this is not an excuse to give up on a seemingly picky eater. Children do need time to accept new foods, but by 2 or 3 years old if you are introducing a variety of good foods repeatedly and choosing good foods yourself they will like a good variety of foods.
They may not like everything, but they will like a lot more than you might have thought. If your children won’t eat ANY vegetables there is a good chance there were things you should have done differently when they were growing up. . . . and you can start doing some of these things now to reverse their tastes.
- Introduce vegetables before you introduce fruit. When you are first introducing solids to a 4 to 6 month old start with vegetables first. Let them try all the vegetables before you start adding fruit to the diet. If they only take a couple bites then start spitting it out, don’t force it. Try some more vegetables, and continue to re-introduce the one they didn’t like. There is no reason to worry about quantity of food or to rush this process. You will still be either nursing or giving formula at this time so they will be getting all the nutrients they need.
- Offer baby foods multiple times. If there are certain vegetables that they aren’t as interested in as infants continue to offer the vegetable over and over. Don’t ever give up and black ball a food. Just because they don’t like a food initially doesn’t mean they won’t with time. Mix with fruit or rice cereal and continue to introduce. Do not force, but continue to introduce each week.
- Offer whole vegetable multiple times. If your baby didn’t like sweet potatoes from a jar no matter how many times you tried, still try a sweet potato when baby graduates to whole foods. Just as you offered baby food over and over, the same process needs to be followed when introducing the actual vegetable. Textures will be completely new, and they may love pureed peas but hate the actual pea because the texture is new.
- Offer at least 10 times, in the same way! A food needs to be introduced upwards of 10 times before you give up. It is very important that it is offered the same way each time, and not mixed in a casserole or other form etc. New foods take time to get used to and kids are learning about the entire food world all at once. You do not need to force a child to try the food item every time, but have it at the table and put some on your child’s plate.
- Model behavior. If you won’t eat it they won’t either. It is very important that you are offering fruits and vegetables with every meal. They need to see you eating the foods on the table. If you never eat them they will pick up on your food aversions. If you don’t eat vegetables then the first place to start is with yourself. Allow yourself to try some vegetables you haven’t tried in years. Try the food several times, and try preparing a different way then you had it as a child.
- Don’t tell your children they must finish everything on their plate. You can ask them to try everything at least once, but food shouldn’t be forced. Parents should choose the WHAT, WHEN, and WHERE of meal times and food. Children should choose HOW MUCH and IF. Follow this rule and your children will have a great nutrition start. Young children naturally eat the number of calories they need each day. As they grow and are distracted with TV and forced to finish everything on their plate they quickly learn to ignore internal cues for satiety (the full feeling). Once we get good at ignoring the full feeling, it is so easy to overeat.
Children are so impressionable when they are young, and they roll we play in the first few years has lasting impacts. Help your children start with a strong nutritional foundation. Helping them like a variety of foods will make easy for them to eat a diet full of all the vitamins and minerals they need. It is never too late to start. If your children are older, focus on the last three suggestions to help them expand their food preferences. And most importantly, if you are a picky eater… start with yourself!