5 Easy Tips for Introducing New Foods to Picky Eaters
When you’re introducing a brand new food to your infant or trying to incorporate a wider variety of foods for your toddler-age picky eater, the process can seem daunting. Reduce your stress with these easy tips from a licensed food therapist’s own experience. With these 5 tips in mind, you’ll be better prepared for mealtime with picky eaters and be able to introduce new foods to their diet with ease.
Tip 1: Introducing New Foods
When introducing new food to your infant or toddler, the first step is to let them accept the new food being on their plate. If you’re eating at the same time they are, showing them that the food is also on your plate can be beneficial. Remember, they likely will not try a new food the first time they see it, and that’s okay! Encourage them to, but also encourage them to get messy and explore the new food simply by touching or smelling it. The simple presence of the food on their plate along with the foods they usually eat can increase their familiarity with it. Allow them to get comfortable with the new food at their own pace and don’t be discouraged if they’re hesitant to even touch it the first few times they see it.
Tip 2: Patience is The Key
The truth is, it can take 10-20 exposures to a new food before your little one might try it. Your patience during this process is key! It’s perfectly normal for your kid to be hesitant about a new food they’ve never been exposed to before or even outright reject a food the first few times it’s presented to them. There’s no need to get discouraged if they won’t have anything to do with a new food that’s never been on their plate before. Just continue to put the new food in front of them and encourage them to try it or touch it, your persistence and patience will go a long way. Any positive reinforcement you can provide as they begin to interact with or taste the food will be incredibly beneficial.
Tip 3: Making Mealtimes Fun and Interactive
Making mealtimes fun and interactive for all of their senses is a great way to encourage picky eaters to try out new foods! Encourage them to smell and finger play with the new food and don’t be afraid to let them get messy. Sometimes, new foods or new textures can seem scary to your little one but if they look at the process of trying new foods more like playtime, they’ll be more likely to enjoy the experience. That enjoyment can eventually lead to comfort and familiarity with a wide range of foods which will help them meet their nutritional needs. You can even encourage them to feed you unfamiliar foods, making their mealtime a more interactive process for everyone. When they see you eating and enjoying the food they may be hesitant to try, they’ll be more likely to taste it because they see you have an enjoyable experience while eating it. Your baby will be more willing to try new foods when it’s an exciting and enjoyable experience, and what’s more fun than playing and making a little bit of a mess?
Tip 4: Encouragement The Little One
Get excited when they interact with the new food and show your picky eater as much encouragement as possible any time they try new food. This creates positive reinforcement and an overall positive experience that will make your baby more likely to try new foods in the future or continue to try the new food you’ve introduced to them. Your excitement and encouragement are essential to helping your picky eater explore new foods.
Tip 5: Keep Trying
If you’ve implemented these tips and your infant or toddler continues to struggle to incorporate new foods or textures into their diet, a feeding assessment is a great next step. Sometimes, your little one may need more help when it comes to new foods and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. It has nothing to do with your parenting skills and styles, all babies are different and what works for one might not work well for another. A medical professional like a licensed speech language pathologist (SLP) or feeding therapist can provide different techniques that may work for your baby’s feeding therapy, and even come up with a customized plan to help your baby reach its nutritional goals and thrive!