Healthy Eats: Getting Kids to Try (and Like) New Foods

On 15th May 2017

Hi there, and welcome to another edition of Healthy Eats! Keeping your baby healthy and happy through eco friendly baby clothes is all well and good, but if bad nutrition is making them feel yucky, it won’t matter what they wear. So starting in January, we at Two Birdees resolved to create articles to help parents and kids eat and feel the best they can. Our Healthy Eats articles tackle nutrition issues like understanding labels on organic food and which fish are safe for small kids to eat.

The trouble is that even after you guarantee that you’re making the best, healthiest food possible for your kids, there’s still a chance they won’t eat it. Cue arguments, complaints, and marathon dinner table stand offs over a pile of untouched peas. Who has time for that? Not us. That’s why we put together this handy guide to help you change your kid’s relationship to food. But first, let’s look at the science behind pickiness.

Babies are born with all the taste buds they’ll ever have. As we grow into adults, some of our tastebuds die off (especially the ones connected to sweet flavors). This process continues as we age, with older adults preferring more and stronger flavors because they are easier for their taste buds to detect.

That means that for children, flavors are much “louder” than they are for adults. Part of the reason why kids love sweets is that they have extra taste buds with which to enjoy that candy bar. At the same time, bitter tastes that adults think are mild (like broccoli) are much more intense for a child. However, if parents wait to expose their kids to vegetables and other potentially “icky” foods until the kids are older, they might reject those foods because they’re strange.

Today, most childhood nutrition experts agree it’s a good idea to introduce your little ones to a wide variety of foods early on. The more stuff they try, the less likely they are to be shy when first meeting a new food. But that doesn’t mean they will like everything: it’s rare to find a kid who doesn’t have at least a couple of foods they avoid. Luckily, many of those objections can be overcome with the right tactics.

As a parent of picky eaters, you have two main options: you can change the food itself (what it looks like, tastes like, or how much of it there is), or you can change the way kids think about it. Here are a few ways to apply each of these two options in your nest.

Option One: Change the Food

Take it slow. If your kid is a picky eater, forcing them to love a new food right away is probably not an option. It can be frustrating, but the fastest way through it is to listen to them. Find out what exactly they don’t like about a food. A lot of pickiness is due to the newness of a food rather than the taste or texture. If that’s the case, start by getting them to take just one bite of the new food. The next time you cook it, have them take two or three bites. It might take a while for the newness to wear off, but once it does, they won’t think anything of eating a regular sized portion.

Hide it! We don’t recommend hiding a new or disliked food so completely that that kids don’t know they’ve eaten it until you tell them. That’s a great way to get them to mistrust other meals you serve them, which will just make them more picky! Instead, serve the food plainly, but with a condiment that the kid already likes. Think carrot sticks with Ranch dressing or bacon bits on a salad.

Good choice. Make them feel in charge of new food by letting them choose how it’s made the first time. As in, “Should we have these sweet potatoes mashed or baked?” or “Do you want your celery sticks with peanut butter or hummus?” Even if they hate the food the first time, they will be more willing to try it again if you remind them there’s another way that will taste different.

Option Two: Change the Kid’s Mind

Get cooking. Kids are always proud of the stuff they make. They love to show off drawings and other art projects. If you involve them in the kitchen, they are way more likely to love what you make together because they got to see how it was made. Try making them your junior chef; give them a special apron or hat. Give them jobs that don’t involve knives or hot stoves, like peeling bananas, measuring flour, and breaking eggs into bowls. Then let them present their masterpiece to the family. They’re almost guaranteed to like it, and even if they don’t, they are still learning a life skill.

What’s in a name? Get creative with how you talk about food. Calling spaghetti “bloody worms” has gotten untold numbers of kids to eat their pasta. You can also try telling them about a favorite person or animal who eats the same thing. Lines like, “I bet Batman drinks a lot of milk; that’s why he’s so strong!” or, “Rabbits are your favorite animals, and they eat lettuce all the time,” can do wonders. Or give them interesting facts about new foods. For example, “Did you know tomatoes are fruits?” If all else fails, give them a make-believe reason to eat the food: pretend those pieces of cauliflower are full size trees and you’re a family of giant, hungry dinosaurs. Who knows, you might have fun.

Lead by example. Eat family style, with everyone filling his or her own plate from dishes in the middle of the table. Most kids want to do what the grown ups are doing. If they see you eating a new food, they are more likely to try some for themselves. And putting it on their plate by themselves makes it their choice.

At Two Birdees, we know you work hard to keep your little ones healthy, inside and out. We hope you’ll let us help you with that outside part by sharing our selection of eco friendly and organic baby clothes. We carry everything from organic cotton baby clothes by Finn and Emma to bamboo baby clothes from fabric innovators like Kickee Pants. Sale items abound in our shop right now, thanks to our Spring Sale, so you’ll never know what deals you’ll find. Thanks for reading!