1. Figure out if there is a consistent theme to the foods that your child DOES eat. For example, does he typically like crunchy foods? Then choose raw veggie sticks as opposed to steamed vegetables, or try crunchy kale or carrot chips. Does he only like smooth textures? Then puree some veggies and use them in muffins or pancakes. Sometimes the problem is more of a consistency issue than an actual taste one.
2. Don’t try to feed a picky eater when he’s not hungry, but don’t try to starve him either. The best time to introduce a new food is at the beginning of a meal – as long as your child is at a normal level of hunger, and not ravenous.
3. Have a “try one bite” rule at each meal for all foods. Taste buds do change, and studies show that if kids are exposed to new foods on a routine basis, they are more likely to eventually eat those foods. And just because your child doesn’t like a food once, doesn’t mean he won’t like it if he’s offered it again a month later. Remain calm and unemotional, but don’t give up!
4. Beyond the “Try one bite” rule before allowing your child to eat the foods he does like, do not give consequences or punishments for refusing to eat new foods. The worst thing you can do is turn mealtime into a battle – it’s a sure way to set yourself up for failure in this area. Remain calm and unemotional.
5. Involve your child in the shopping, preparing, and even growing of foods as much as you can. I can tell you from experience that as a result of visiting numerous Farmer’s Markets over the last few summers, my kids have all sampled new foods that are now well incorporated into their diets. And it’s the rare kid that won’t at least taste a dish that she helped prepare with mom or dad!
6. Focus on the presentation of the food. Kids like color and design, and there are plenty of ideas on online on how to use fresh fruits and vegies to create a host of fun designs. I’ve seen fresh produce used to create a garden scene, a train, or as people. Look here for some ideas (add link). You can also try giving new foods fun names, such as Meanie Meaty Meatloaf or Cracklin’ Cauliflower. Obviously a creative design or a fun name won’t magically change hated foods into loved ones, but they will help an otherwise skeptical child try some new dishes on a more routine basis.
7. Pair foods your child does like with a new food whenever possible. If your child chips and dip, try substituting sprouted quinoa chips in place of corn chips with the same dip the child usually enjoys. My son eats a daily wrap of tuna fish on a multigrain wrap with romaine lettuce every day for lunch. One time I threw a small handful of sprouts in, and he didn’t flinch. Now that he knows he enjoys them, he allows me to put them into other dishes as well.
8. Again, I cannot stress it enough – remain calm. Mealtime should not turn into a war zone with you and your child battling every bite that goes into his/her mouth. You will only lose ground this way, and further sabotage your way to success. Try as much as possible to create a fun, happy, experimental environment around the dinner table, and though it may take some time – your child will eventually be eating new foods.