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A few years ago, on a health kick, I made a spinach salad with balsamic dressing. I hated it! But my little Emma, who was one at the time, polished the whole thing off – and asked for more! She loved to try new foods… until she turned 2.
Something happened around two years of age when she decided to have opinions about food. Strong ones! And since then she’s just gotten more opinionated and verbal about what she does and doesn’t like. Here is what I’ve done to get her to try new foods!
They can’t try it if they don’t have the chance! Offer new, interesting, and healthy foods often. It can take a few (or many) tries before kids get used to a new food. And make sure that you try, too!
Also, you can try offering fruits and veggies as a first course. I do that with Emma for lunch and dinner so I have more time to put together the rest of the meal! She is a lot more likely to eat a bowl of green beans when she is hungry, than when they’re sitting on the side of her plate.
Now, a lot of the experts say not to suggest, push, remind, or anything like that to get your kid to try new foods. If that works best in your family, great! But for Emma, suggesting that she try the new food (by singing the Daniel Tiger new foods song!) is usually what she needs to take a bite. And she’s happy to try it, because she remembers that it might taste good! If I don’t suggest, she often hops down from the table without giving the new food a second glance. If suggesting or reminding upsets your child or they push back, please skip this step!
Remember that kids are little people, with their own feelings and opinions! It’s easy to feel responsibility as parents to get them to eat everything on their plate. But offering them healthy options and giving a bit of encouragement is really all that’s needed. Trust them to become more adventurous eventually, and trust that they will probably not starve if they don’t want to eat what you offer.
It’s also hard not to take it personally – they don’t like what you cooked, or they won’t listen to you, or you feel like a bad parent because you’re having this issue at all! I totally get it, and I’ve felt all of those at one point or another. I think we all have! But when kids pick up on these feelings, they may push back against you even harder. Trust that they are not personally attacking you!
Remember that kids’ taste buds are very sensitive to bitter flavors, like in vegetables and some spices. Do you have a food or flavor you just hate? (I can’t stand shellfish – the smell, taste, texture, all of it!) It’s more than possible that they just don’t like the taste at this stage in their lives. However, you can teach them how to politely decline. A few months ago Emma started saying, “Ick! That’s yucky!” when she tried something she didn’t like. We’re still working on changing it to, “No thank you, I’ll have some ____ instead.”
If you notice that pushing too hard or at all makes them shut down, stop! If a certain song helps, use it often. If they like eating from a divided plate, use it! I’m not saying to bend over backwards – but consider making small adjustments that help your child be more relaxed about meal times.
If you find out they do like a new food, run with it! Emma’s favorite veggies are green beans and broccoli stems! I’m holding out hope that one day she might like the whole floret. What’s really funny is as a kid, I only liked the tops! But she’s still getting nutrients and fiber, so I’m not complaining.
Meal times should be healthy and fun, not just for kids’ bodies but for their minds, too! Power struggles, pressure, and stress can backfire at the dinner table. It’s important to remember that we’re creating lifelong habits about food – it should be enjoyable, shared with others, and an adventure!
Are you having trouble getting your kids to try new foods? Let me know in the comments!
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