NORMAN — Q: I have a child who is a “picky eater” and is unwilling to try new foods. I am concerned that he is not getting the nutrition that he needs. Any suggestions to help him try new foods or have any secrets to hide nutritious ingredients in meals?
A: This is a great question, since it can be challenging getting some children to try new foods. Kids (ages 2 to 6 years) have a natural preference for sweet-salty foods and a distaste for sour-bitter foods.
As a result, kids tend to eat only certain foods they like and are reluctant to try other foods — called the “food-jag phase.”
The best method to get kids to try new foods is to allow them to be involved in the selection and preparation of meals.
A few ways to encourage picky-eaters include:
· Allowing them to help choose fresh vegetables and fruits while grocery shopping
· Assisting in meal preparation (depending on their age and fine motor skills) by slicing, chopping, stirring, mixing, using cookie cutters to form foods into shapes and measuring foods
· Having them look up information about foods (i.e. where certain foods come from, how they are grown, foods from different countries, interesting facts about certain foods and brainstorming ways to prepare new foods).
· Encouraging them to try at least one or two bites of a food to see if they like it. Some kids assume they do not like a certain food based on appearance and peer influence.
· Cooking meals that smell, look and taste good to stimulate interest in trying new foods.
· Choosing to use descriptive sensory qualities of food, such as “kiwis are sweet like strawberries” or “celery is crunchy like carrots.”
· Offering a food they like at mealtime along with several other food options to choose from. (Offer two to three additional food options for them to choose and say, “Would you like to try broccoli, peas or both?”)