Creative Ways to Encourage New Foods

So many parents of young children note their children are becoming more picky about eating by the day.  They describe a child who was a pretty good eater at 2 years old and is now narrowing their choices and becoming more demanding.  There are so many ways to encourage children to eat and try new foods without being pressure.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Encourage children to help with the shopping – Let little ones draw pictures of the foods on your shopping list and older ones write the list for you.  At the store let them pick which type of apples or grapes to buy, maybe let them pick a cereal or flavors of yogurt.  Encourage reading skills by having them keep track of items on the list.  Encourage math skills by teaching them to weigh fruits and vegetables, teaching them to compare prices per weight or keep a running tally for the cost of the list.
  • Encourage children to help prepare food – At home have children wash the vegetables or cut the fruit as they can.  Have them butter rolls and serve greenbeans.  Overall, involve them in the food process.
  • Offer new foods when your children are hungry – If they eat real well at breakfast, offer new foods then or offer new foods as a appetizer before dinner.
  • Offer foods in a wide range of colors – Adding colors is easiest done with fruits and vegetables.
  • Try fun, new, child-friendly recipes – There are so many great cookbooks for kids including  Family Fun:Cooking with Kids by Cook, Kids Cooking: A Very Slightly Messy Manual by Klutz and Kitchen for Kids by Low.  There are also child-friendly cookbooks (meaning meals you make that kids will love) including Cooking Light: The Ultimate Kid Approved Cookbook by Cooking Light or No Whine with Dinner by Weiss.  There are also great website including  http://www.foodnetwork.com/cooking-with-kids/package/index.html and http://www.parents.com/recipes/cooking/with-kids/.  This list is just for starters, there are many others in each category.
  • Make smoothies they love – And throw in a vegetable or wheat germ on the side.  You might try recipes from 201 Healthy Smoothies and Juices for Kids by Roskelley.
  • Make food “art,” let them play with food then eat – This could be standing up broccoli to make trees, making small snowmen with mashed potatoes, using big cookie cutters to make shape sandwiches or letting them make ants on a log (celery with peanut butter and raisens on top) and then EATING the fun.
  • Build on foods they already like – If your child loves ketchup or ranch dressing, go really wide on all the foods they might be able to dip in.  You might also look for cookbooks that build on a favorite ingredient such as The Peanut Butter & Co. Cookbook by Zalben or The Cereal Lovers Cookbook by Chattman.
  • Teach them about the food process – Visit the farm, take a tour of a grocery store, teach them about where food comes from and how food is made.
  • Teach them about nutrition – Teach them about the food pyramid, about healthy choices and portions.
  • Offer new foods in a container they can hold – When you can, offer the new foods in a bag or container they can hold.
  • Offer it in other novel ways – Try new foods on a stick, or serve small foods with toothpicks for utensils, serve small portions in an ice cube tray (divided into small squares).
  • And when all that fails, I am fine with hiding ingredients – To cook and hide ingredients at home you might read The Sneaky Chef by Lapine or Deceptively Delicious by Seinfeld.  You might also take them to Robeks and try a wide range of their smoothies, including the ones that have vegetables or start experiementing with your own smoothies at home.
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