Nutrition Education

Helping Kids to Try New Foods

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It can be an uphill battle to coerce children to try new foods. In our family, we have just four guidelines around meals and snacks:

  1. All are encouraged to taste each dish served at meals. They don’t have to finish if they don’t like it.
  2. There’s only one main entree choice at meal time. Mom and Dad are not short-order chefs.
  3. For side dishes, there is at least one familiar food. (bread, fruit, etc.)
  4. A meal is not complete without a fresh fruit and/or vegetable.

I try to provide a neutral and safe space around meals and snacks so there’s little pressure or stress surrounding food. Sometimes I slip up, but I really do try. We also don’t label our foods as “bad” vs. “good.” Food is food, and all foods can fit into a well-rounded and nourishing diet. With that being said, sometimes it can be a challenge to move past step 1–getting kids to taste the food being served. It’s hard for kids to decide whether they like something and how much of it to eat when they refuse to even taste it. So what can a parent do?

The story I am about to tell you is just an example of how I helped my (adorable, blonde curly-haired) son when he was 3 years old to try a new food. Obviously, this exact situation won’t work or apply to everyone–you know your own kid–but this was something I just pulled out of my hat, and it worked.

My kindergartner was gone at school, baby sister was napping, and it was just me and my 4-year-old boy. His request for lunch was chips and melted cheese. I was heating some leftover Pressure Cooker Refried Beans to go with it when he began protesting, “No beans! No beans!” I can’t blame him for not wanting to try this new, brownish-grayish mushy food, but I pressed a little bit further.

I related a story to him from that morning’s scripture study about a man named Lehi who had a dream about a big, beautiful tree. Lehi had to feel his way through mists of darkness, holding on to an iron rod that eventually led him to the tree. Once he was there, he picked from the tree the most delicious fruit he had ever tasted. The fruit was so good that he immediately wanted to share some with his family. Half of his family made their way to the tree and got to taste the fruit while the other half refused to try, and they missed out on the delicious treat.

“Just like Lehi, I know that these refried beans are delicious, and I want you to try them. I hope you would trust me to know that I would never ask you to try a food that I didn’t enjoy myself,” I explained. And with that, he dipped his chips in the beans and didn’t stop dipping until the container was gone. To this day, he is my very best bean-eater at the dinner table! I understand, it’s a bit of a stretch to compare a scripture story to trying a new food at the dinner table, but it worked! Maybe something about having a bit less pressure, and a one-on-one discussion to help build my son’s trust in me (and my cooking) was just what he needed.

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Since 2009, Megan has used her Bachelor’s Degree in Dietetics from Brigham Young University to help people develop healthy food relationships. She combines evidence-based science, a dash of alternative medicine, and a large dose of practical food preparation to teach individuals how to feed themselves and their families nourishing meals with common ingredients. As a busy Mom of 5, she believes food should be simple, intentional, and HEARTY!

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